Technology’s Effect on Sleep Patterns 

You’re reading my words right now on a technological device. It’s unavoidable in today’s world. Almost everything we do requires a screen, whether it be the screen of a smartphone, computer, or TV. I think we all subliminally know that screen time has so many negative effects on peoples’ mental and physical health, but we all ignore this because, plain and simple, we can’t avoid it – the screen. 

Technology screens provide us access to Youtube videos, New York Times articles, our favorite restaurant menus, etc. It’s a miraculous invention, with costly effects. The technology screen, when really thought about, is a window to limitless information, and a mirror to our individual downfalls. It is something that, because we are always staring at it and into it, instigates an addiction, leading our bodies to constantly experience the feelings associated with jet lag. We may stay up late to finish an assignment, or play one more round in a video game, or get in one last episode on Netflix, making us overtired the next day. I’m guilty of it, and so are you as you recall the times you may have stayed up too late on your computer or phone when you should have been resting.

According to the article, “Here’s How Technology Affects Our Life,” published in The Economic Times, “Technology has altered human physiology. It affects memory, attention spans and sleep cycles. This is attributed to a scientific phenomenon known as neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to alter its behaviour based on new experiences.” There are several reasons for this, ranging from there being quite literally less time to sleep if you are glued to a screen, to the harmful effects of blue light on the circadian rhythm, and more.

A study conducted in China in 2013 as published in, “Low Physical Activity and High Screen Time Can Increase the Risks of Mental Health Problems and Poor Sleep Quality among Chinese College Students,” yielded the following results: “ST (screen time) has been hypothesized to be a cause of insufficient and low-quality sleep, which may be explained by time displacement. With more time spent in front of screens, the youth have less time available to sleep.” And we know less sleep, or poor sleep patterns, can lead to a host of mental health issues from anxiety to depression. So it’s plain and simple math here: less screen time in a twenty-four hour period will give you more time back into your day, that you can use for physical activity and socialization, both of which will improve your ability (and the time you have) to sleep.

Moreover, screen time contributes to one’s downfall because it causes physical damage to the retina due to the effects of blue light, which also affects the circadian rhythm. A study conducted in China in 2018 as published in the NCBI, “Research Progress About The Effect And Prevention of Blue Light On Eyes,” discovered that “…if blue light is excessive, especially at night when melatonin production peaks, it can not only damage the retina through the ocular surface, but can also stimulate the brain, inhibit melatonin secretion, and increase corticosteroid production, thereby destroying hormonal secretion and directly affecting sleep quality.” We know that blue light is unavoidable as it is present in all technological settings. So although you might be reading intriguing articles from the Washington Post, your retina is taking a significant blow in its ability to function. It also becomes difficult to settle in bed once your mind is stimulated from both content and the light itself; your brain races at this time, which affects your sleep quality as your circadian rhythm, which is ongoing for twenty-four hours a day, is disrupted from the untimely use of your device. Because staring into blue light affects your eyes, and the circadian rhythm is what notifies you when it’s time to go to bed, your body is tricked into thinking it should stay awake for longer and your circadian rhythm is then “off.” You wake up the next morning feeling so lost and tired, with blue light acting as the culprit.

Then there’s your physical body itself. In the publication, “All About Teck Neck,” written in the Spine Institute of North America, a diagnosis called “Teck Neck” is discussed, the condition being the result of your very own posture. Right now as you read this, you are probably – let me guess – a bit hunched over. Well, when you’re all slouched up in your chair and applying pressure onto your cervical spine and neck, you are causing yourself to have “Teck Neck.” According to the Spine Institute of North America, “Inflammation and stress of your connective tissues and neck muscles can cause stiffening or hardening of tissues and limit the rotation in your neck.” So, your good night’s sleep is disrupted when the neck muscle pain that is developed from slouching over worsens, causing multiple wake ups from what can become severe discomfort. The neck and upper back tightness that occurs from the excessive amount of weight that is prolonged by one’s insufficient posture causes your natural circadian rhythm to become interrupted, yielding continuously poor sleep patterns. 

Ding! The screen time notification that appears at the end of the week on your smartphone acknowledges your hourly amount of daily phone usage, and maybe you ignore it. This is upsetting as the information that is in front of your eyes becomes something you just delete, yet there are damaging consequences to your body both physically and mentally.  The average screen time is up for so many people, and this is detrimental to the sleep that we should have to replenish ourselves for the next day ahead of us. Our brains and bodies will pay the price of our thirst for knowledge and information. Screen time, thought of as a positive thing, thought of as something nothing more than what it seems to be – “time spent on a screen,” is severely negative in that soon enough, although we will want to continue staring at our technological devices, we won’t be able to because of the conditions of our physical bodies. Screen time certainly will become something that needs limitations if we want to save ourselves.


January 14, 2018. Here’s How Technology Affects Our Life. Mumbai, India. Economic Times

Wu, X. Tao, S. Zhang, Y. Zhang, S. Tao, F. March 18, 2015. Low Physical Activity and High Screen Time Can Increase the Risk of Mental Health Problems and Poor Sleep Quality among Chinese College Students. San Francisco, California. Plos One.

Yanni, B. June 4, 2019. All About Tech Neck. New Jersey. Spine Institute of North America

Zhao, Z. Zhou, Y. Tan, G. Li, J. November 12, 2018. Research Progress About The Effect And Prevention of Blue Light On Eyes. China. NCBI

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