When you are lying up at night and can’t fall asleep, what do you choose to do? Do you go get a glass of warm milk? Or read your favorite book?
Personally I reach for my cell phone, that is usually charging no more than a foot away from me. I check Facebook, Instagram, and maybe even go on Pinterest. Since studying abroad I am even more tempted to log onto social media late at night because most of my friends in the U.S. are on the social media networks at this time as well. The other night when I had trouble falling asleep, I reached for my phone as I always do, and it got me thinking. Was this actually helping me fall asleep or was it making it worse?
After doing some more research on the topic I found out that my hypothesis was correct. New research shows that using an electronic gadget for just two hours before bed can cause sleep problems. This new study was done by the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. It found that the displays cause melatonin suppression, which is the chemical that controls our body clock. Melatonin is what controls our natural sleep-wake cycle. Natural levels of melatonin in the blood are highest at night, which result in us falling asleep (Melatonin Side Effects). Technology today is moving towards bigger and better screens and this is hurting us even more. People reach for the largest smart phone in the store, with the best display and biggest screen, giving off the most light and suppressing the most melatonin. One way that we can attempt to stop this negative effect is by dimming these devices at night as much as possible. This will help to minimize melatonin suppression. But the best way to stop this issue is just simply limiting the amount of time spent using these devices prior to bedtime.
I think that saying we will stop using social media before bedtime is a lot easier said than done. I spend my time before bed relaxing and unwinding from the day. Today social media has become to easiest way for me to do this. I am able to catch up with my friends and family, look at their pictures to see what they are up to, and just spend mindless time pinning fun pictures and recipes. I think most can agree that checking social media is one of the last things that they do before going to sleep. If I don’t, I lay in bed thinking, did I miss something, did someone upload a new picture, etc. I honestly believe that most teens stay up later at night just because they do not want to get off social media. I think that many teens even realize the negative affects of late night use of electronics and they still continue to use them. I do not believe that this trend will ever stop, I think that it will continue to get worse and social media continues to get more popular.
Featured image courtesy of Flickr user stuad70
“Melatonin Side Effects: What Are the Risks?” Mayo Clinic. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/expert-answers/melatonin-side-effects/faq-20057874>.