Can't sleep? Blame your computer, cell phone

Using computers before bed, texting in the night keep users awake and tired

Not getting enough sleep these days? You may have to blame your computer or your cell phone.

The National Sleep Foundation on Monday released the results of a poll showing that many people aren't getting a good night's sleep. The survey found that 43% of Americans said they rarely or never get a good night's sleep during the week. A full 60% said they experience a sleep problem, such as waking too early, snoring or feeling unrefreshed, every night.

While part of the problem is busy lives, crying babies and jobs that require attention around the clock, another is electronics, the foundation said.

"This study, which polled 1,508 Americans between 13 and 64, reveals that light-emitting screens are in heavy use within the pivotal hour before sleep," said Dr. Charles Czeisler, a professor at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in a statement. "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."

Forget reading before bed. Most Americans admit to using electronics -- including the radio, television, computers and cell phones -- in the hour or so before they hit the sack. The survey found that 95% of Americans use some type of electronics at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed.

And it's not all about watching Grey's Anatomy or the The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

People are online -- a lot -- late at night.

In the foundation's survey, six out of 10 people said they use their computers at least a few nights a week during the hour before bed. And about half of teenagers and people in their 20s admitted to using their computers nearly every night before bed.

"I'm barely awake enough to talk to you now," said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group. "TV and computers have been a pre-bedtime staple for a while now. What do these National Sleep Foundation people expect us to do at night? Talk to each other?"

Part of the problem, particularly among teenagers, is talking or texting each other in the middle of the night.

The study found that one out of 10 teenagers reported being awakened every night or nearly every night by a call, text or e-mail. One out of five people in their teens and 20s reported being woken up a few nights a week by their cell phones.

"Unfortunately, cell phones and computers, which make our lives more productive and enjoyable, may also be abused to the point that they contribute to getting less sleep at night, leaving millions of Americans functioning poorly the next day," said Russell Rosenberg, vice chairman of the National Sleep Foundation.

However, Olds said this might not be such a bad sign after all.

"I'm actually heartened by the fact that only 10% of young adults have their sleep disturbed by calls or messages overnight," he said. "This means 90% of them have figured out how to turn their phones off, or it could mean that many just aren't popular enough to rate the late-night call."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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