How TV, Internet, and Other Electronic Devices Impact Sleep

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Lynn Taylor has a bad habit of sending emails at all hours of the night … at 11:45 p.m., then 12:29 a.m., and even as late as 2:23 a.m. When the rest of the world is checked out, Taylor is plugged in.

“I spend my day thinking of emails I need to send, and the only time I can catch up is after hours,” says Taylor, 36, a government affairs executive in Washington, D.C.

Whether it’s email, a video game, the Web, or TV, electronic devices and their offerings keep millions of Americans like Taylor connected 24/7. But the price for leading our fully wired lives is high: These diversions can keep us from both falling asleep and sleeping well.

“One of the most simple but important reasons technology affects our sleep is cognitive stimulation,” says Mark Rosekind, PhD, former director of the bedtime. Have a transition period, about 15 to 30 minutes, of technology-free time before you go into your bedroom for sleep.

  • Shut down your bedroom. Make where you sleep an electronic-free zone. According to AOL’s third annual “Email Addiction” survey, more than 40% of 4,000 respondents have checked email in the middle of the night. Put caps over your electric outlets to discourage plugging in for a recharge.
  • Disconnect your kids. A TV in your child’s bedroom has a negative effect on sleep quality. Give him or her a relaxing book to read before bed instead of the remote.

  • Originally published in the January/February 2008 issue ofWebMD the Magazine.