Tech is taking notice of how its products affect your sleep cycle

By Julia Malacoff
Updated: August 23, 2016

We all know that sleep is incredibly important to health, but with social media playing such a large role in our lives these days, it's easy to get distracted by technology when it's time to turn in for the night. But how much do your technology habits affect your rest? Turns out, quite a lot.

Research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania confirms that sleep quality is associated with the technology we use at nighttime. In fact, their study found that the higher the number of devices used before bed (think: watching TV while scrolling through Facebook), the lower the sleep quality was that night. Another recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that reading off of your smartphone at night through one eye can actually cause temporary blindness in that eye. Even though it's temporary, that's a pretty scary side effect of catching up on the news before you hit the hay. (Not convinced sleep is important? These 6 Things Your Body Does While You Sleep might change your mind.)

The good news is that tech companies are taking notice of how their devices and apps affect people's lives in terms of sleep. Twitter just launched a new "Night Mode" in its iPhone app (the feature has been available on Android since July) that makes the display more friendly to your eyes at nighttime, which in turn helps you sleep more soundly. The screen is significantly darkened, making it much easier to read text in low light. To access the mode, click on the gear icon under the "Me" tab in the Twitter app and select "Turn on/off night mode." Or watch this fun little gif that shows you how to do it.

Twitter isn't alone in their recognition of how pre-bedtime technology use can negatively impact sleep. Apple now provides an option on its iPhones called "Night Shift," which fades white and blue light to yellow after dark to lessen the strain on your eyes when looking at the phone's screen. Blue light in particular can throw off your circadian rhythm, which acts as your body's "clock." To access this mode, you simply select the option under "Display & Brightness" in the settings menu. This feature is especially amazing because you can adjust exactly how warm or cool you want the light to be when you have the mode on, making it fully customizable. You can even set an automatic schedule for the Night Shift to be turned on every day, kind of like an alarm.

While more research is needed to understand the specific and long-term effects of technology use on sleep, it's encouraging that major players like Twitter and Apple are taking notice of the issue and doing something about it. If you can't take the often-cited advice to turn off all electronics a couple of hours before bed, these new app and device features provide a more reasonable alternative.



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