Smartphones and computers affecting how we sleep at night

We all love our smartphones and iPads. We stay connected through emails and texting, but those gadgets can be robbing us of a good night's sleep.

The glow from our cell phones and computers can be hurting the way we sleep, says Dr. Brian Bohner, with the Greater Baltimore Medical Center's Sleep Disorder Center.

"Our society is exposed to bright light with many of these devices and we know that it's disrupting the secretion of that important nighttime hormone," he said.

That nighttime hormone he's talking about is melatonin. It's what helps us fall asleep.

"Melatonin is the hormone of darkness," he said. "It is the hormone that's secreted in the brain that initiates our whole process of sleep. So it's basically our entrance into a good night's sleep."

But when we use our gadgets before bed, the bright light interrupts the whole process of falling asleep.

Dr. Bohner says we should unplug from our phones and computers one hour before going to bed.

"Within one hour of the targeted bed time there should not be any of these stimulating," he said. "That will cause them to be more aroused and interfere with their ability to fall asleep."

Putting your phone on vibrate is not a good option either, said Dr. Bohner.

"Whether your cell phone is making a sound or vibrating, if it's enough to cause an awakening then it's going to result in the person re-initiating sleep and if this happens through the night with several disruptions, it will have dramatic impact."

He said it's particularly important for children who like to text or play video games until late at night.

"Kids that don't get good sleep will not be learning as well. They will have problems with their social interactions and they will get sick more often."

He said it's important for parents to make sure their children turn off their cell phones and computers one hour before bedtime.

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