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Sleeping with the enemy: Is tech ruining our sleep?

By Alicia Inns
Published On: Feb 21 2013 01:00:57 AM CST

NewsChannel 21's Alicia Inns reports on the growing problem of people losing sleep by using technology before bed.

BEND, Ore. -

Gone are the days when an alarm clock rings in the morning.

Instead, it's most likely your cell phone, used as an alarm -- laying right beside you.

Meet the arch-rival of sleep.

"Most people are up watching stuff until 10 or 11 at night, and then you log on, don't even go to sleep until midnight, which probably isn't feasible for a lot of people," said one Bend resident.

Minimal sleep mixed with the need to log on and check in.

"I check my e-mail, and there's a couple different accounts that I check," said another Bend resident.

"I'll try not to check Facebook, but then I'll get a message from someone and I'll end up going there," another one added.

All the logging on is done right before bed.

A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation found 95 percent of Americans use electronics within an hour of their bedtime. The study also revealed many said they never or rarely get a good night's sleep on weekdays.

Dr. David Dedrick is the medical director of the St. Charles Sleep Center. He says taking your technology into the bedroom is like sleeping with the enemy.

"If your brain is trying to power down and get ready for a night of sleep, bright light is the enemy. Because bright light is the signal that it's day time and we need to be active and doing things. The opposite for night," Dedrick explained 

That light shining right into our eyes just moments before we doze off can create patterns of insomnia, tossing and turning, and just plain lack of sleep -- potentially affecting parts of your health and everyday life. And that's what worries doctors.

"Higher rates of obesity, higher rates of heart disease, depression, and even some questions about cancer, and whether or not insufficient sleep and shift work might bring on some of those, too," Dedrick said.

To get to that level of slumber, Dedrick says you need to power down early -- at least 2-3 hours before bed.

But is that realistic?

Some would venture to say that's impossible in a 21st century world.

"Even with TV, I go from watching TV, then my husband goes to sleep and I think, 'Oh I'll stay up a little longer' and then I get sucked into that whole cycle," said one Bend woman.

So if you can't fully disconnect, doctors suggest you try these tips: Dim the screen and pull it further from your face. If that doesn't do the trick, you might try one of those cover screens that actually dims the light on the computer. And if all else fails, try shutting down at least one hour before bed.

"Whatever you've established as your health goals for the year, move sleep up higher on that list. And yeah, turn off the cell phone, turn off the iPad, turn off the computer and just spend time with your family."

And just like the lights, you've got to turn your gadgets off to get your brain to do the same.

If you'd think you might be suffering from a sleeping disorder or have questions about technology and sleep, here is a list of different doctors and clinics:

St. Charles Sleep Center:

Central Oregon Sleep Disorders Center:

BMC Sleep Disorders Center:


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