Technology vs Sleep: Who's Winning?

February 22, 2013 Updated Feb 22, 2013 at 12:33 AM EDT

By WKBW Admin

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February 22, 2013 Updated Feb 22, 2013 at 12:33 AM EDT

It has happened to all of us. You need to get to sleep, but the urge to check your cell phone, tablet and laptop gets the best of you. And the more you do, sleep becomes less and less likely. Now local experts say we are under siege by the same technology that is supposed to make our lives easier.

"I think people often see sleep as more of a luxury than a necessity," Dr. Sandra Block said.

Dr. Block is the Medical Director for the Buffalo Medical Group Adult and Pediatric Sleep Center, and works daily with patients on problems with sleep. She says an overuse of technology right before bed is a growing problem.

"Doing their email, going on the computer, going on YouTube with the dvd player right in their lap. And that bright light is actually mimicking sunlight at bedtime which is not a great idea," Dr. Block said.

Contributing factors to technology-based-sleep-loss include the size, mobility, and sheer amount of technology in daily life. That plus it's 24-hour availability can take over time once dedicated to sleeping.

"It's not like 'Oh Twitter is done at 9:30, now I can go to bed at 10,' Twitter is going all the time, Facebook is going all the time," social media consultant and communications professor Nicole Schuman said.

Doctors recommend 7-8 hours of sleep per night, with the average American clocking in about six. Adding what Dr. Block calls "brain candy" late at night can make it even harder to doze right off.

"They take time, they take mental energy, so you're giving yourself this mental rush of doing these technology things before bed that not only keep you up, but keep your brain a little too activated," Dr. Block added.

Even the simple act of checking a smart phone in the middle of the night and lighting up the screen can play tricks with your eyes and brain.

"We want sunlight in the morning, so sunlight at bedtime is going to make you be less sleepy and actually drive you to have a little more insomnia," Dr. Block said.

But as constant communication becomes easier, detaching from that technology, even to sleep, can become harder.

"If you don't have that device with you all the time, you might miss a call, some big news with your circle of friends, and I think a lot of people can't detach themselves from that or don't want to," Schuman added.

That can contribute to the largest sleep related problem that neurologists like Dr. Block face, insufficient sleep syndrome, or routinely not getting enough sleep. And that can be bad for your health.

"There's been multiple studies showing higher risk of obesity, higher risk of diabetes with sleep deprivation," Dr. Block said.

But experts say the solution can be a simple one; be aware of your use of technology before bed and put a limit on it. The results, according to Dr. Block, are a more awake, more focused, and healthier you.