Get In Touch
Xeraya Capital Sdn Bhd
26.03–26.08, G Tower
#199 Jalan Tun Razak, KL
+603 2381 8700
Submit a Proposal

When Sleep and Tech Collide – How the Digital World Impacts our Slumber.

For decades now, researchers, healthcare professionals, and academicians have debated and discussed the impact technology and gadgets have on our sleep. While we are still discovering the different aspects of this unfortunate phenomena, here is a brief look at what has been concluded so far, and the solutions we have today to tackle it.

A Growing Issue that Affects People of all Ages

Technology and its use in a bedroom setting has been a rising concern for global society and its impact is not only felt by adults but by children as well. Recent studies from the National Center for Biotechnology Information have revealed that 75% of American children and 70% of American adults are using technology when in bed.

The side effects of this activity are plentiful. For both children and adults, this practice results in time displacement (i.e., spending time on a screen in lieu of sleeping); psychological stimulation (from content viewed); light exposure, which affects circadian rhythms; sleep physiology (which impacts the neurons that help to shut down arousal systems); as well as the alertness of an individual during the day.

No alt text provided for this image
The recommended amount of sleep for all age groups. Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine via Sleep Foundation.

For some people, the solution to counter all these effects may seem simple: just turn on dark mode and silent mode. However, researchers are now arguing that even if this solution is used, the temptation to check a device in the bedroom if a person happens to wake during the night will remain, thus interfering with the body’s attempt to return to slumber.

What are the Key Elements of Tech That Affect Our Sleep?

There is a plethora of advice and information available to the public on how to get a better night’s rest. The fact of the matter is, it’s not just technology that holds a person back from sleeping, however, in today’s society, it does indeed play a big role. One crucial element of technology that disrupts rest is screen time, as highlighted by the National Sleep Foundation in their 2022 Sleep in America Poll.

Light exposure, as previously mentioned, has a large part to play in the regulation of circadian cycles. Simply put, bright light signals the brain to begin waking up, while dim light indicates a time for sleep. In their study, the Foundation found that 58% of Americans polled looked at their screens within an hour before bedtime or in bed before sleep. This is troubling news, because sleep research has shown that light exposure within just two hours of bedtime can be very disruptive to a person’s sleep cycle.

The poll further emphasised the veracity of the fact that technology disrupts sleep when it discovered that the people surveyed who frequently used their devices before bed had trouble sleeping 2.6 days out of the week as compared to 1.8 days among those who said that they rarely or never looked at their devices.

Another key finding from this poll correlates with the fact that technology is impacting the sleep of people at all stages of life: while phone use before bed is more prevalent among the youth, with 71% admitting that they do this, 44% of respondents aged 50 and above claimed to have the habit; of that number, 46% said that they practice this habit very often.

No alt text provided for this image
The number of younger people using a device before bed is high; however, there is also a substantial number of older people who also have this habit. Source: National Sleep Foundation.

Moreover, while light exposure and screen time would be the most discussed elements of technology that impact sleep, there are five other factors that should be taken into consideration:

  1. Text messages and social media alerts.

As reported by Somnology, a recent study discovered that 22% of respondents keep their phone ringer switched on and have the device on their nightstand, while another 10% admitted that the phone has woken them up in the last week.

2. Content

The videos and articles people read before bed create stimuli that can make it a challenge for the brain to relax as it is processing new information.

3. Interactive vs. Passive

Interactive technology such as phones, computers, and tablets have been shown to impact the brain more than passive technology such as a TV or radio. Playing with such devices before bed can have an impact on a person’s memory and the ability to make rational decisions and have reasonable thoughts.

4. A social place

Having a device in bed can lead people to start associating their sleep environment as being a social place that becomes a location to connect with others, which then causes the brain to view the bedroom as not a place for sleep but as a place to chat.

5. Fear of missing out

Technology has caused us to believe that everything is happening in the here and now and that it would feel wrong to miss participating in these events. As such, fear of missing out syndrome kicks in, which causes a person to lose sleep or have a night of restless sleep.

In a Busy World, How Do We Switch Off Before Bed?

No alt text provided for this image
In a global study of how the world sleeps, India stands out as having the most number of respondents that agree that they get enough sleep. Source: The Visual Capitalist.

As challenging as it may seem, the research and findings above highlight the importance of being able to turn off a device before bed. Some recommendations for initiating this habit include creating a space for devices that is well away from your bed, using a basic alarm clock to wake up, and for children, establishing a routine where devices are to be put away at a certain time, ideally a few hours before hitting the hay. Habits such as watching a video or listening to white noise via a device can be replaced with white noise machines and a good book that lulls the brain into a stupor.

Lastly, while some children may view the removal of technology as a punishment, this can easily be repositioned by parents as a reward; gamify the situation by providing treats to children when they have achieved a week’s or a month’s worth of sleep without having to use technology in bed.


1. The Sleep Foundation