Unplug and Unwind for Better Sleep: Using smart devices before bedtime linked to sleep disorders


    By Michelle Owens,

    If you’ve ever been in one of our relaxation classes at Yoga East, you know it’s a feast for the senses as we break out the flameless candles, aromatherapy oils and soothing music. The relaxation class is a perfect way to end your day well. Sadly, emerging research shows that we don’t pay enough attention to the transition from the active to the restful part of the day, and thereby run the risk of developing sleep disorders.


    Most of us text, e-mail, and make calls on our smart phones right up until our heads hit the pillow, and then we wonder why we can’t sleep. And now new research shows that using smart phones and devices in bed at night causes too much mental activity late in the evening – and this may be linked to an increased risk of sleep disorders.


    These new study results, published in Applied Ergonomics, found that using an iPad two hours before bedtime suppressed levels of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles, by as much as 22 percent. Exposure to light – especially blue wavelengths –resets your circadian clock and signals your body that its time to wake up. The best way to prepare for sleep is to shut down all devices an hour before bedtime. If you want to use your smart device, such as an iPad, to read in bed, then you’ll need to dim the light level of your device and limit your exposure to less than an hour. The Applied Ergonomics article reported there was no significant disruption in melatonin production in people who were exposed to backlit displays for less than 60 minutes.


    Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland, a small, reddish gray gland situated in the brain. This hormone aids with sleep, memory and the regulation of your moods. According to yoga philosophy, the pineal gland controls the vibration of every cell in the body and practicing specific poses like forward bends and back bends, increases blood flow and improves the function of the gland.


    If you need to unplug and unwind, add a relaxing yoga sequence to your evening. Or adopt an evening ritual that signals to your brain and body that its time to take it easy. Soaking in a warm, candlelit bath, enjoying a gentle massage or listening to soothing music are all bedtime routines that can help end your day well.


    If you have insomniac teenagers, try implementing a phone free zone – a time of day when everyone powers down their devices. You may be surprised at the results. When I recently confiscated my teen’s phone for disciplinary reasons, she thanked me a few days later and said she had never slept better.


    About the author: Michelle Owens, is a Yoga Alliance-registered yoga teacher and owner of Yoga East studio (www.yogaeastorlando.com) in downtown Avalon Park. She can be reached at michelle@yogaeastorlando.com.