Sleep Problems After 60: Is Your Cell Phone Giving Your Brain the Blues?
Like so many aspects of getting older, it’s easy to blame our poor sleep on our aging bodies. When we were younger, we remember, getting to sleep was a breeze. No sooner had our heads hit the pillow, then we were dreaming of… well, whatever it was that we dreamt of in those days.
It’s true that our sleep patterns have a tendency to shift as we get a little older. Not only do our brains produce less melatonin, an important sleep regulation hormone, but, we also have to deal with age-related aches and pains. Incidentally, there is some debate as to whether melatonin production really is the issue, but, that’s a topic for another article.
In reality, we have more control over our sleep than we think. Today, I’d like to talk about one simple behavior that could be causing havoc in our brains – looking at our phones and tablets in bed.
This is Your Brain on Blue
As you probably know, one of the signals that our brains use to decide when to sleep is light exposure. When our ancestors were living in the “wild,” light exposure was simple. It was light during the day and dark at night. This is exactly the kind of simple information that our brain loves.
In the modern world, things are quite different. No longer satisfied with rising with the sun and going to bed at night, we fill our homes with lights and electronic devices. The lights in our homes are confusing enough for our brains, but, according to Anne-Marie Chang, a neuroscientist from Harvard, it’s the electronic devices that do the most harm.
In a recent interview with Scientific American, Dr. Chang explained that the blue light that is emitted from our phones and other electronic devices sends strong “wake up” signals to our brains. When you lie in bed, scrolling through your Facebook feed, you are telling your brain to stay awake. It’s like taking the sun to bed with you – except that this sun is blue.
If you are interested in exactly how blue light affects your brain, check our Dr. Chang’s original interview. That said, the take-home message here is simple. If you want to sleep better at night, leave your electronic devices in the living room, where they belong. You may also want to try dimming your lights as you get closer to bed time.
Have you recently decided to stop taking your electronic devices to bed? What impact, if any, has this had on your ability to get to sleep? Have you found that your sleep patterns have changed as you have gotten a little older? In which ways? Please join the conversation and “like” and share this article to keep the discussion going!