New poll: Many are sleepy from late-night technology use

Nearly half – 43 percent — of Americans ages 13 to 64 report rarely or never getting a decent night’s sleep on week nights, and late-night use of technology may be the problem, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

The organization released its Sleep in America poll this morning and found a pervasive use of communications technology in the hour before bedtime along with a significant number of Americans who aren’t getting enough sleep.

Nearly everyone, about 95 percent,  reported using a TV, computer, video game or cell phone, in the hour before bedtime at least a few times a week, the organization said.

About one in 10 teens said they are awakened every night or almost every night by a  call,  text message or e-mail.

“Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour—making it more difficult to fall asleep,” says Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  “This study reveals that light-emitting screens are in heavy use within the pivotal hour before sleep. Invasion of such alerting technologies into the bedroom may contribute to the high proportion of respondents who reported that they routinely get less sleep than they need.”

Other findings:
— Americans are coping with sleepiness by drinking caffeine and taking naps. The average person is drinking about three 12-ounce caffeinated beverages a day, regardless of the age group.
— Generation Z’ers and generation Y’ers report more sleepiness than generation X’ers and baby boomers.
— Sleepiness also played a factor in safe driving practices: Half of generation Y’ers say they drove while drowsy at least once in the past month; 40 percent of generation X’ers, 30 percent generation Z’ers and 28 percent of baby boomers admitted to doing the same.
(12 percent of generation X’ers, 8 percent of generation Z’ers say they drive drowsy once or twice a week.

For those having problems sleeping, the National Sleep Foundation suggests the following:
— Set and stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same times each day.
— Expose yourself to bright light in the morning and avoid it at night. Exposure to bright morning light energizes us and prepares us for a productive day. Alternatively, dim your lights when it’s close to bedtime.
— Exercise regularly. Exercise in the morning can help you get the light exposure you need to set your biological clock. Avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime if you are having problems sleeping.
— Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Allow enough time to wind down and relax before going to bed.
— Create a cool, comfortable sleeping environment that is free of distractions. If you’re finding that entertainment or work-related communications are creating anxiety, remove these distractions from your bedroom.
— Treat your bed as your sanctuary from the stresses of the day. If you find yourself still lying awake after 20 minutes or so, get up and do something relaxing in dim light until you are sleepy.
— Keep a “worry book” next to your bed. If you wake up because of worries, write them down with an action plan, and forget about them until morning.
— Avoid caffeinated beverages, chocolate and tobacco at night.
— Avoid large meals and beverages right before bedtime.
— No nightcaps. Drinking alcohol before bed can rob you of deep sleep and can cause you to wake up too early.
— Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medications might be contributing to your sleep problem.
— No late-afternoon or evening naps, unless you work nights. If you must nap, keep it under 45 minutes and before 3:00 p.m.

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