A clever approach to screens will preserve your sleep!

What about your relationship to screens?

Fauxels 3

Fauxels 3

An ordinary and hyperconnected work meeting. Different protagonists each set up their computers, smartphones and tablets. The meeting will last one hour and half during which a number of them will hastily check each of their devices… Young adults are obviously also concerned. According to a recent survey, 90% of them browse on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) during the two hours leading up to bedtime, and 59% of them have their phones on in the bedroom during the night. Whoever says phone on says nighttime texting with a night-owl friend and fostering of the “connected night-owl club”! In addition to the detrimental effect of an excessive use of new tech throughout the day on sleep (Thomée et al., 2007), exposing oneself to screens before going to bed is also counter-productive. Such an exposure will increase our level of vigilance, partly due to a blue-light induced reduction in melatonin secretion, and the engaging and stimulating content of this media. According to Arora et al. (2014), complex cognitive processes (decision-making, problem solving, memorisation) happen when using these forms of media. This might lead to a difficulty to switch off the brain and let go when initiating sleep. You have to know that unhealthy consequences will depend on the chosen format. Thus, obsessively checking and posting comments on Facebook before going to bed will result on average in one hour less of sleep per night! Watching TV before bedtime will result in twenty minutes less of sleep whereas listening to music will make it hard to fall asleep (Arora et al., 2014). Finally, unlimited access to artificial light and the possibility of creating permanent artificially-lit environments are crucial factors in the reduction of sleep quantity among industrialised societies. According to philosopher Michel Serres, with the birth of new technologies, a new kind of human was born: he calls him “Little Thumb”, referring to the maestria he has to send texts with his thumbs. His theory invites us to reconcile modern and old. It seems difficult today to advocate in favour of the suppression of new technologies, which are everywhere, along with permanent digital logout in order to preserve sleep. A clever use of new technologies is still possible. It is a question of taking back control over our relationship with technology.                               

Use with caution! James Williams, a former Google employee, who quit to become a philosopher said: “On the short term, technology distracts us from tasks we have to do. On the long term, it may distract us from the life we want to lead… Technology favours our impetus and not our intentions”.

Mathieu Nedelec, sport scientist in charge of research projects on sleep and recovery. I teach best practices to improve sleep and performance. I will read your answers carefully and let you know when my next posts will be published.