Technology & Sleep: Advice for a Good Night’s Sleep

Nowadays, advancing technology provides access to information at any time for any individual. Given all this, technology can also interfere with sleep and offer more distraction than benefit. Going to bed with a smartphone or tablet is irresistible at any age, from children to teenagers to adults. Priorities change but the results of technological advancement stay the same: worse sleeping patterns.

Numerous scientific studies show that technology has a disturbing effect on sleeping patterns. A team of researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (USA) have shown that reading an e-book is worse than reading a newspaper. In a study published in PNAS, it was determined that those who read e-books in the 4 hours before going to bed took a longer period of time to get to sleep. This was due to the blue light being emitted from the devices (smartphones, tablets, PCs).

How does the backlight of electronic devices interfere with sleep?

“The backlight and the blue light of high-tech devices interfere with the production of melatonin, which is a substance that regulates the sleep-wake cycle” – says Dr.Vincenzo Tullo, Neurologist at Humanitas LAB. The release of melatonin is not immediate but it is continuous. Melatonin reaches its peak between the hours of 2AM and 5AM. It is crucial not only to help individuals fall asleep but also to help them stay asleep. If its release is disturbed by light, it will be difficult to go to sleep and stay asleep.”

Tips for a good night’s sleep

To get a proper night’s sleep, as determined by several studies, electronic devices should be put on “save sleep” mode. Most importantly, the intensity of the backlight should be reduced.

  • Put devices out of sight (at least 35cm from the eyes): “Distance is also important: it is light intensity that disturbs natural sleeping patterns.”
  • Read a book instead of an e-book. “To fall asleep, it is advised to read a newspaper or paperback book.”
  • Do not take work to bed. “By turning off all electronic devices, you will not be tempted to check your email or agenda for the next day. Thinking about work can become a source of stress and even stress interferes with sleep.” 
  • The National Sleep Foundation suggests turning off PCs, smartphones and tablets at least one hour before going to bed: “It’s a valid suggestion. Technological devices should be turned off around 22.30-23PM, which is the hour when going to bed is also critical. Those who get enough sleep can benefit from better cognitive performance, improved memory and can focus better the next morning.”
  • Go to bed at an appropriate time. “Do not consume coffee or other stimulants in the late afternoon and do not go to bed right after eating dinner. It is equally important not to exercise in the few hours before going to bed. Use a proper mattress and maintain a good temperature in the bedroom, neither too cold nor too hot.”

Are there any technological approaches that can help “save sleep”?

The University of California (USA) has evaluated the consequences that technology has on children’s sleeping patterns. A study, published in Pediatrics, examined sleeping patterns of more than 2 thousand children between the ages of 9 and 12. It was found that those who went to bed with an electronic device in their hand fell asleep on average of 37 minutes later. Not only this, but every day their sleep was reduced by 20 minutes.

Lastly, a study on the Frontiers in Public Health was carried out by several institutions including the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London (UK). As pointed out by one of the researchers, using technology can also delay one hour of an individual’s sleep before closing their eyes. The experts also noted that a pair of glasses with orange lenses and an app (such as f.lux) that are designed to dim lights are able to reduce the negative effects of smartphones and other electronic devices on an individual’s sleeping patterns.


Humanitas is a highly specialized Hospital, Research and Teaching Center. Built around centers for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and orthopedic disease – together with an Ophthalmic Center and a Fertility Center – Humanitas also operates a highly specialised Emergency Department.