Dr. Anuj Chandra of Chattanooga’s Advanced Center for Sleep Disorders is sharing the results of the annual Sleep in America poll, which was released today by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). The poll finds that use of communications technology in the hour before bed is pervasive among all age groups, but night-time technology use and daytime sleep problems are higher in the younger ages.
“So many people love to be connected all the time and then complain about never escaping our technology,” said Dr. Chandra. “This survey shows that overuse of information technology is a medical issue, not just an annoyance. Doing things like texting and web surfing and playing games and so on in the hour before bed disturbs a person’s sleep and affects them during the day.”
Dr. Chandra will offer an informational presentation on “How Sleep Disorders Impact Your Health and Well Being” for the general public. This workshop will be March 10, from 6-7 p.m. at the Advanced Center for Sleep Disorders, located at 6073 East Brainerd Road. For reservations, call 648-8008.
Communications technology use before sleep is pervasive
Almost everyone surveyed, 95%, uses some type of electronics like a television, computer, video game or cell phone at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed. However, baby boomers (age 46-64), generation X (age 30-45), generation Y (age 19-29) and generation Z (age 13-18) report very different technology preferences.
Computers or laptops — 61% say they use laptops or computers at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed. More than half of generation Z (55%) and slightly less of generation Y (47%) say they surf the Internet every night or almost every night within the hour before sleep.
Video games — Generation Z (36%) and generation Y (28%) are about twice as likely as generation X (15%) and baby boomers (12%) to say they play a video game within the hour before bedtime at least a few times a week. More than one in ten (14%) of generation Z say they do so every night or almost every night before going to sleep.
“Exposure to artificial light simply from watching television changes our body chemistry and our sleep rhythms, making it more difficult to fall asleep,” said Dr. Chandra. “Some research is showing that the interactive aspect of video games, cell phones and the Internet make them even more disruptive to sleep.”
Cell phones — Texting and talking on the phone show a significant age gap. More than half of generation Z (56%) and nearly half of generation Y (42%) say they send, read or receive text messages every night or almost every night in the hour before bed compared to 15% of generation X and 5% of baby boomers.
Cell phones were sometimes a sleep disturbance. About in one in ten of generation Z (9%) says that they are awakened after they go to bed every night or almost every night by a phone call, text message or email. About one in five of generation Y (20%) and generation Z (18%) say this happens at least a few nights a week.
The younger you are, the sleepier you are
“The younger generation uses technology more in the evenings, so it’s not surprising that they report more daytime sleepiness,” said Dr. Chandra.
The poll included a standard clinical assessment tool, which showed that roughly one in five people in generation Z and generation Y report daytime sleepiness compared to about one in ten generation X and baby boomers. Generation X (13-18) was the sleepiest group at 22%.
Coping with sleepiness through caffeine and naps
The poll shows that people are coping with their sleepiness by drinking caffeine and taking naps. The average person on a weekday drinks about three 12-ounce caffeinated beverages, with little difference between age groups. Napping is common in all age groups, but the two youngest groups reported slightly more napping during the week: more than 50% for generations Z and Y, versus about 40% for generation X (38%) and baby boomers (41%).
“Well that’s good news and bad news,” said Dr. Chandra. “It’s good that people are doing something to cope, but napping and caffeine can simply perpetuate the problem by making it more difficult to sleep at night.”
Lack of sleep is a problem
Among the more than 25% who say they are not getting enough sleep, more than eight in ten (85%) said that it affects their mood, almost three-quarters (72%) said it affects their family life or home responsibilities, and about two-thirds (68%) said it affects their social life.
For those who are employed and report not getting adequate sleep, about three quarters (74%) of those over 30 said that sleepiness affects their work.
About two-thirds of adults (61%) said that their intimate or sexual relations were affected by sleepiness (13-18 year olds were not asked this question).
Sleepiness also played a factor in safe driving practices. Half of generation Y (50%), more than a third of generation X (40%) and approximately a third of generation Z (30%) and baby boomers (28%) say they drove while drowsy at least once in the past month. A staggering number, about one in ten, of generation X (12%), generation Y (12%) and generation Z (8%) say they drive drowsy once or twice a week.
“Good health requires good sleep. That’s true for everyone,” said Dr. Chandra. “The effects of inadequate sleep are immediately apparent in so many areas: family life, work, intimacy and drowsy driving. The long term effects can be even more serious: high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, impaired blood sugar control and fibromyalgia.”
Healthy sleep advice
Dr. Chandra offers the following advice for healthy sleep:
- Turn off electronics and television. For at least an hour before bedtime, enjoy calm and non-stimulating activities.
- Exercise regularly but not at bedtime. Exercise in the morning can help you get the light exposure you need to set your biological clock. Avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime if you are having problems sleeping.
- Expose yourself to bright light in the morning and avoid it at night. Bright morning light energizes us. Dimming the lights at night signals your body to relax.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Allow enough time to wind down and relax before going to bed.
- Don’t toss and turn. If you can’t sleep after 20 minutes or so, get up and do something relaxing in dim light until you are sleepy.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages, chocolate and tobacco at night.
- Avoid large meals and beverages right before bedtime.
- No nightcaps. Alcohol before bed can disrupt deep sleep and make you wake up early.
- Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medications might be contributing to the problem.
- No late-afternoon or evening naps, unless you work nights. If you must nap, keep it under 45 minutes and before 3 pm.
Dr. Anuj Chandra is a double-board certified sleep specialist who treats patients in the Chattanooga area and trains physicians internationally. He is chairman of the Advanced Center for Sleep Disorders, located at 6073 East Brainerd Road, which offers state-of-the-art sleep diagnostic testing in a home-like setting and treatment for sleep disorders like sleep apnea, daytime sleepiness, restless leg syndrome and others. For more information, visit the Center’s web site at www.sleepforhealth.org.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) is a charitable, educational and scientific not-for-profit organization located in Washington, DC dedicated to improving sleep health and safety through education, public awareness and advocacy. Its annual Sleep in America™ poll is one of the most popular health stories each year. The poll routinely generates in excess of 500 stories nationwide. For more information, visit the NSF at www.sleepfoundation.org.