How Excessive Use of Technology During College Impacts Your Sleep Patterns

Getting into college is usually a great achievement. Most freshmen feel a sense of pride and joy, especially when they have enrolled in a study program they’ve long dreamt of pursuing. Indeed, they deserve to be proud of themselves as they have hit a huge milestone towards realizing their future career goals.

As the first weeks pass, the reality of studying in college kicks in. Freshmen begin to feel the fast-moving tempo of academic life build up. There’s a litany of things to be taken care of: registrations and payments, course enrolments, meetings and orientation sessions, course lectures, as well as a conveyor belt of assignments including writing custom essays or research papers. And for those who are interested in participating actively – college sports.

There are probably more activities you can add to that list but you get the point – college life essentially gets hectic when the academic semester is in full swing.

Observant freshmen will soon notice that the reality pretty much applies to all college students, regardless of the year of study. Academically, the major difference will be in the volume and difficulty of the courses taken. Typically, the higher the year of study is, the more advanced and challenging the courses are.

The indubitable fact is that the long lineup of activities exert stress on college students. The stress can result in a variety of behavioral and physical symptoms. Stressed out students may experience frequent headaches, neck and back pains, increased blood pressure, chest pains, and a number of other negative symptoms. From a psychological standpoint, stress also takes a toll on college students. Many of the affected ones may find themselves being forgetful, feeling anxious, depressed, and in severe cases –  suicidal.

To be able to cope with this situation, students develop different stress responses. A significant number of them may seek the help of their university counselors and other people in their support network. Others may resort to drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol as a way of dealing with the harsh reality. However, taking stimulants and spirits may lead to all kinds of harmful consequences, including addiction, poor mental development and physical coordination, aggressive or violent behavior, damage to internal body organs, and, in the worst case scenario, death.

To surmount their academic challenges, some hard-charging students spend long hours ‘glued’ to their books, laptops, tablets, or smartphones. Others attempt to cope with study-related stress by excessively playing games on PCs, game consoles or mobile gadgets.

One major effect of that behavior is sleep deprivation. In fact, it’s not just the excessive use of the above devices that can cause you to lose sleep. Other dubious ways of coping with stress can also lead to insomnia. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that losing sleep is merely a symptom of that stressful life.

Here, we’ll focus on how your sleep patterns can be impacted by the excessive use of electronic devices. As human beings, we all have what is called circadian rhythm. It is your body’s daily biological clock that coordinates your alertness and sleepiness. The rhythm is a set of physiological and neurological changes. Simply put, this is how our body responds to ambient light and utter darkness. Because it affects you when you are asleep or awake, it is also known as the sleep/wake cycle.  

Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the ways in which your sleep cycle gets affected by electronic devices.

Looking at Digital Screens Can Suppress Melatonin Production

Melatonin, also known as the ‘sleep hormone’, is a substance that is secreted during the nighttime to induce sleep. Using electronic devices with screens at night can inhibit the production of the hormone. How does this happen?

The blue light emitted by the screens of laptops, tablets, smartphones, and televisions is processed as an external stimulus by the brain, thus giving it a false impression that you’re still experiencing the ‘daytime’. But, apparently, that isn’t true, since digital screens give off artificial light in contrast to the ambient light radiated by the sun during the day.

Another source of artificial light is fluorescent lamps and light bulbs which produce the same effect. Now you know why people turn off the lights at night? It’s because they get quality sleep that way!

Using Electronic Devices At Night Causes Your Brain to Remain Alert

If you constantly use electronic gadgets at night (for studying, watching movies, messaging on Facebook or WhatsApp, reading news, or browsing photos on Instagram), your brain state changes. Whichever digital task you undertake, you get your brain to switch to the ‘increased alertness mode’ – a state when you process information and concentrate on what you do much better.

The result of it is that your sleep time gets pushed further. And sadly, just when you decide to hit the sack after you’re done with your digital tasks, you may find yourself being unable to go to sleep. That’s one immediate consequence of disrupting your body’s circadian rhythm.

Keeping Electronic Devices Turned On Can Disrupt Your Waking Time

Disruption of your sleep time can lead to you waking up much later than you normally would. However, having active electronic devices around you can also disrupt your wake time. The sounds from a television or laptop, notification sounds from your smartphone or smartwatch, calendar reminders that go off late at night or very early in the morning – they can all wake you up earlier than your body’s sleep clock would prefer.

Because they interrupt your natural sleep duration, you can think of them as the equivalents of unwanted alarm clocks.

To sum up, using your tech gadgets during the nighttime can disrupt your sleep cycles. That can also have a negative impact on your academic performance. You may find yourself still asleep while your fellow students are in class. Even if you somehow make it to the lecture hall, you will have a hard time concentrating on and memorizing things. You may also end up falling asleep in class. To prevent that from happening, you should put away your electronic devices at night and get a good night’s sleep. That will eventually pay off in the form of improved health and better academic performance.

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