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Don't Let Your iPad Ruin Your Sleep

Jul 21, 2014
By Spencer Blackman, MD

We live in an age where we’re constantly plugged in, whether it’s via a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or other device. While the benefits of easy communication and access to a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips are innumerable, technology comes with its price.

Beyond its distracting properties, your gadget is causing another issue you’re probably not even aware of—it’s disrupting your sleep. And not in the obvious “I can’t stop watching these viral videos” way that you think. Numerous studies have found that people are particularly sensitive to the blue light emitted by technology—enough that it’s disrupting our circadian rhythms.

So before you spend another night tossing and turning, unable to shut off long after you shut your iPad off, here are nine things you can do to prevent your iPad from ruining your sleep.

1. Shut down one hour before bed.

Give yourself an hour before bed to decompress by shutting down all your electronics. Light suppresses melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy and regulates your circadian rhythms. Give your body an hour without a glaring screen to build it up.

2. Dim your iPad or use a filter.

If you insist on using your iPad late into the night, lower the brightness level or invest in a screen that filters the wavelength of blue light. Orange-tinted glasses designed to reduce eye fatigue are another affordable and effective way to filter blue light. Free software like f.lux automatically changes the color of your iPad’s display depending on the time—full-spectrum during the day and warmer, red-spectrum light at night.

3. Back up.

Simply holding your iPad farther away from your face when you use it can help diminish the effects of blue-spectrum light.

4. Get old fashioned.

Before bed, ditch the iPad and get back to basics. Read a book, magazine, or newspaper instead.

Don’t miss 7 Habits of Highly Successful Sleepers.

5. Start a ritual.

We are creatures of habit. Starting a ritual before bedtime is enough to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down for sleep. Your ritual can be unique to you—drink herbal tea, take a shower, read a book. Create a bedtime ritual and your body will know it’s time to doze off long before you hit the sack.

6. Hang up the “do not disturb” sign.

Once you’re asleep, make sure you stay that way until morning. Set your iPad or other device to airplane or “do not disturb” mode to make sure you’re not getting woken up at 3 a.m. by an alert that someone in Australia liked a photo of your dog.

7. Reward good tech behavior.

If you’re having a lot of trouble unplugging, create a motivational system for yourself. Go three days without using your iPad before bed, and reward yourself with one day of free use. It’s important to focus on positive reinforcement so you look forward to doing without.

8. Filter the content.

What you consume before bed is just as detrimental as your iPad itself. Scary movies, stressful news, and stimulating video games increase adrenaline levels and make it difficult for your brain to shut off. In the same vein, certain apps and games can have addictive qualities that keep you glued to your iPad (and not sleeping) longer. Avoid anything overly stimulating before bed. Do you get caught up checking Facebook and Twitter after lights out? Delete those apps or limit their usage to daytime only.

9. Use your technology in your favor.

Make your iPad work for you by taking advantage of the many relaxation, meditation, and stress-relieving apps, websites, and podcasts available. Headspace and Buddhify are apps that train you in meditation techniques while Zencast offers podcasts about meditation as well as tools to help you unwind.

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Spencer Blackman, MD, One Medical Provider

Spencer practices relationship-centered primary care, blending a traditional sensibility with up-to-date clinical knowledge and a strong focus on disease prevention. He enjoys getting to know his patients well, educating and empowering them to participate in health care decisions. Spencer completed his residency training at UCSF and practiced primary care, urgent care, sports medicine and adolescent medicine throughout the Bay Area before joining One Medical Group. He is certified with the American Board of Family Medicine. Spencer is a One Medical Group provider.

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The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, a national, modern primary care practice pairing 24/7 virtual care services with inviting and convenient in-person care at over 100 locations across the U.S. One Medical is on a mission to transform health care for all through a human-centered, technology-powered approach to caring for people at every stage of life.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. 1Life Healthcare, Inc. and the One Medical entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.