Technology and sleep: A force for good or evil?

Technology has transformed the way people live their lives, helping to make numerous processes more efficient than was previously the case.

However, when it comes to the time we spend sleeping, it would be fair to say that technology can have both positive and negative connotations.

Sleep experts have long argued that the presence of digital devices in the bedroom has a detrimental impact on our quality of rest.

Many people use smartphones or laptops to play online casino games, scroll through social media or chat online with family and friends after work, with screen times extending from early evening to late at night.

However, numerous studies have shown that using digital devices as part of a pre-bedtime routine can have a significant impact on the quality of your sleep. 

This can affect your ability to wake up properly, reduce your productivity and potentially lead to the onset of numerous health conditions.

These include heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and dementia, highlighting why great quality sleep matters.

As such, experts suggest shifting your screen time to earlier in the evening, while blocking off the 30-60 minutes before sleep to give your eyes (and mind) a necessary rest.

Neuroscientist Matthew Walker, who wrote the international best-seller Why We Sleep, is an advocate of steering clear of using devices in the run-up to bedtime.

He believes people should make their bedroom a device-free zone to create the optimum conditions for getting the requisite amount of sleep.

“Stay away from screens, especially those LED screens – they emit blue light that actually puts the breaks on a hormone called melatonin,” Walker said.

“And melatonin helps the healthy timing of our sleep. Blue-light emitting devices trick our brains into thinking that it’s still daytime.

“We should unwind in more dimly lit environments closer to bedtime. We are a dark-deprived society in this modern era, and we need darkness in the evening to allow the release of melatonin.”

While digital devices can cause severe disruption to sleep, some technological innovations have been proven to boost your chances of getting great quality shuteye.

Blue light blocking glasses, sleep robots, smart sleep mattresses and cooling headbands are among the products that have been proven to improve sleep.

They have played their part in establishing a sleep technology devices global market which was valued at $14.5 billion in 2022.

With the sector projected to reach more than $61bn by 2030, it is clear that technology companies will continue to cash in on sleep over the next few years.

According to Walker, sleep supporting devices will become increasingly integrated with other in-home devices such as lighting and thermostats.

“Using common machine-learning algorithms applied over time, we should be able to intelligently teach the home thermostat what the thermal sweet spot is of each occupant in each bedroom, based on the bio-physiology calculated by their sleep-tracking device,” Walker added.

“Better still, we could program a natural circadian lull and rise in temperature across the night that is in harmony with each body’s expectations.”

Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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