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Using Electronics Before Bed May Hamper Sleep
Date:3/7/2011

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, March 7 (HealthDay News) -- Sleep tight, but not right after looking at something bright.

That's the message of a new survey that suggests many Americans might be losing valuable shut-eye because they spend the hour before bedtime in front of the electronic glow of a television, cell phone or computer.

The survey doesn't prove that exposure to bright light before bed disrupts sleep. But some experts recommend an "electronic curfew" an hour before bedtime, when people should dim lamps and avoid checking their e-mail or watching late-night TV.

"Falling asleep isn't like flicking a switch. We don't put our heads on the pillow and fall off to sleep," said Allison G. Harvey, a sleep specialist and professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley. "We take time to wind down at night. If we've got bright light conditions, we're not giving ourselves a chance to get off to sleep and stay asleep."

The National Sleep Foundation's annual Sleep in America poll, whose results were released Monday, surveyed 1,508 people between the ages of 13 and 64.

Overall, the survey suggests that a majority of Americans aren't getting enough sleep: 63 percent said their needs aren't being met during the week.

Ninety-five percent of those surveyed said they'd used an electronic device -- such as a television, computer, video game or cell phone -- within the hour before bed at least a few nights a week. About two-thirds of people aged 30 to 64 frequently watch TV in the hour before bed, but only about half of younger people do. Not surprisingly, those under 30 are much more likely than older people to send or receive text messages on their cell phones in the hour before bed.

The problem is that light exposure before sleep can disrupt body rhythms and suppress the release of the hormone melatonin, which promotes sleep, Harvey explained.

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