Technology is undoubtedly having an increasingly powerful influence over many aspects of our lives. From shopping to education, to even our personal relationships, there seems to be no area that is resistant to the effects of our new technological age.

So how does technology affect our sleeping patterns? We reportedly need on average around eight hours sleep per night in order to function adequately the following day. And persistently bad sleep can have some alarming side effects from depression and obesity, to even diabetes and cardiovascular ailments.

With that in mind, it’s important to understand how we can use technology effectively in a way that doesn’t damage our body’s valuable way of recharging itself.

Negative effects

According to the National Sleep Foundation around 60% of 13 to 64 year olds have problems sleeping. And it is thought that the fact that 95% of those polled use electronics before bedtime has a big effect upon this figure.

This is because our bodies need certain ingredients in order to sleep properly. The hormone melatonin is produced by our bodies under conditions of darkness. And melatonin is necessary as a ‘timing signal’ so that our bodies know when to effectively shut down for the day.

However, the rise of self-luminous displays in smartphones and tablets means that the body’s ability to generate melatonin is restricted. So if you find yourself using your device two hours before your scheduled bedtime, your ability to produce melatonin is reduced by 22%.

The psychological effects of technology can also trigger undesired outcomes in our sleeping patterns. Playing video games at night can produce unwanted cortisol – a stress hormone – as a result of stimulating gaming action.

And likewise, watching television can raise our heart rates in a way that lowers the quantity and quality of sleep.

Sleep aiding innovations

However, it’s not all bad, as thankfully we have harnessed the power of technology in ways that can aid our sleep too.

These can include relatively low-tech devices such as having a bed with a sprung-slatted base for greater comfort, or even using an indirect lamp to read a book before bedtime that naturally helps to relax our bodies.

And then there’s an array of high-tech gadgets out there too. These include white noise machines that can mask unwanted noise in the bedroom. And if you really can’t be separated from your device before bedtime, then there are some great apps out there such as the f.lux software that removes the melatonin-suppressing light from your screen.