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Technology Affecting Students’ Sleep

Photo courtesy of MCT Campus


The use of electronic devices before sleeping are hurting the sleep patterns of East students. According to a poll of 405 East students, 92 percent use technology before sleeping and of that number 71 percent believe using electronic devices affects their sleeping schedules.

Teens have an internal clock that becomes later and later due to puberty, so they are not able to fall asleep at an earlier time, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s website ( In addition, they have to wake up early for school and other activities.

“If you add the light emitting devices, you are just exacerbating the problem,” said Kristen Knutson, Associate Professor of Neurology and Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University. “The more you expose yourself to [artificial] light, the more you delay that [internal] clock.”

The artificial blue light emitted by cell phones, computers/laptops and televisions trick people’s mind into thinking the sun is still up and reduce production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.

In addition to the artificial light, using technology also keeps the brain alert, so people will stay awake, according to National Sleep Foundation. Seventy percent of students said they send more than ten texts a night, which keeps your mind engaged and makes it harder to relax and fall asleep.

According to the NSF, 95 percent of people surveyed used electronic devices before bed based on a poll by them in 2011. But with teenagers that statistic is higher due to the overuse of technology and their eyes are more susceptible to the artificial light, according to Knutson.

Despite 90 percent of East students who reported that they had previously heard that artificial light hurts their sleeping pattern, only 8 percent have stopped using electronic devices before sleeping.

“It’s like you eat junk food even though it’s bad for you,” junior Nat Nitsch said. “I have a routine at this point which involves texting people or doing homework right up until I go to bed.”

The negatives of being sleep-deprived are plentiful, especially for students, and 72 percent believe technology has an effect on when they fall asleep. The major one is hurting memory and learning which is reliant on sleep. Also there is a decrease in neurobehavioral performance, or reaction time, which increases the chances of driving accidents. And sleep deprivation means more likely to get infectious diseases or become sick, all according to Knutson.

“It definitely affects your focus in class, [because] when you’re tired all you can think about is that you’re tired and you get distracted [so] it is harder to pay attention and pick up on everything,” senior Ireland Hague said.

Eighty-four percent also said that falling asleep extra late was due to school-related homework or studying. With the combination of school and social lives, the majority of East students use technology before bed.

“It’s crunch time for three different activities I am in right now and also homework and AP tests … April is not a good month [for sleep],” Nitsch said.

According to Knutson, a teen should get nine hours of sleep on average. However only 5 percent of students said they get nine hours a night, and 3/4 said technology affects when they fall asleep. Knutson recommends going to sleep an hour earlier for a week and then an hour earlier the next etc., as well as trying to go to sleep earlier as a family.

“The [NSF] has published sleep targets and sleep amounts by age group that was based off of an expert panel consensus, and for teenagers they said eight [hours],” Knutson said. “And that is not necessarily because we think they need eight but more so because in our society it’s next to impossible, so eight is a more realistic goal.”

Senior Ireland Hague is in IB and usually only gets five hours of sleep a night.

“It definitely affects your focus in class, [because] when you’re tired all you can think about is that you’re tired and you get distracted [so] it is harder to pay attention and pick up on everything,” Hague said.

Napping and using caffeinated drinks to survive the day are the most popular techniques among teens, with 55 percent East students saying they nap daily, a few times a week or weekly. But neither are helping to improve sleep schedules. According to Knutson, naps hurt when people fall asleep because that makes people more awake later at night. Also caffeinated drinks can affect people six hours after consuming.

Although technology is not the only factor in determining healthy sleep patterns, not using electronic devices at least 30 minutes before sleeping will help with discipline in sleeping times and the numerous negatives of using technology are completely eradicated.

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Mac Newman

Mac Newman is a senior at East and is on his 3rd year on Harbinger as a copy editor and staff writer. When not in the J-room Mac also does DECA and SHARE. He enjoys watching and playing all sports especially soccer and golf, as well as Chick-fil-a. He hopes to influence the new staff members and improve the Harbinger even more. Read Full »

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