The Digital Addiction and How It Is Influencing Your Insomnia

The influence of technology on our sleep has become a hot topic. From adults answering work emails to teens scrolling through social media late into the night, the effects of constant screen exposure on our sleep patterns are undeniable.1,2

Today, 95 percent of people in the United States own a smartphone – up from 77 percent in 2018. Research shows that 78 percent of Americans between ages 18 and 24 use social media, online dating, video games, and other personal digital technology multiple times a day. Take a moment to think about how many times a day you look at a screen.1

While digital technology has brought convenience and efficiency to our modern lives, it has also introduced a paradox: The more connected we are, the less connected we are to our body's natural sleep patterns.1

What is a digital addiction?

A digital addiction is defined as excessive and compulsive use of digital devices and online activities. This can play out in various ways, such as:1,2

  • Excessive online gaming
  • Social media use
  • Constantly checking emails and messages
  • Online shopping

It may come as a surprise, but a technology addiction can trigger the same reward process in the brain as other addictions like drugs, alcohol, and nicotine. While it might seem harmless, a digital addiction is similar to a substance use addiction in that it can negatively impact a person's relationships, work life, and overall health and well-being.1,2

Digital addiction can increase things like depression, anxiety, loneliness, withdrawal from family and friends, and sleep problems. Just as with other addictions, people suffering from a digital addiction often find it challenging to control their use despite the negative consequences on their lives.1,2

The World Health Organization has stated that digital addiction is a worldwide problem. Sleep disturbances caused by the internet are another serious problem that many face.1

Community Poll

Do you think you struggle with digital addiction?

How screens impact sleep

The human brain is wired to respond to light, particularly the blue light emitted by electronic devices. This blue light mimics the natural light of the sun. It signals our brains to stay awake and alert.3

When exposed to screens late into the night, the brain receives mixed signals. It disrupts the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone that signals the brain that it is time to wind down for sleep.3

Community Poll

How many different screens do you use for more than a few minutes each day?

Digital technology's effects on adults' and teens' sleep

The widespread availability of the internet and the constant stream of information contribute to this 24/7 online culture. The fear of missing out ("FOMO") and the pressure to stay connected can lead to sleep deprivation. Both adults and teens struggle to put the screens away and engage in real life. This puts adults and children alike at risk for insomnia and depression.1-3

For adults, the demands of modern life often spill into the late-night hours. Responding to work emails or catching up on a favorite TV show can easily push bedtime later. This interferes with the body's natural circadian rhythm and can cause sleep problems like insomnia.1-3

Featured Forum

View all responses caret icon

Teens, on the other hand, are often engrossed in their phones, doing things like:4

  1. Being on social media
  2. Online gaming
  3. Doing homework

According to the Society of Behavioral Medicine, kids ages 6 to 13 need about 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night. Teens ages 13 to 18 need 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. But by being on screens, they unknowingly delay their bedtime and compromise the quality and quantity of precious sleep.4

The prevalence of smartphones and other devices has blurred the lines between work, social life, and leisure time. This is making it challenging for folks to establish boundaries and prioritize sleep.1-3

How to manage the digital overload for better sleep

It is important for everyone – but especially those with sleep problems like insomnia – to practice good "sleep hygiene." Sleep hygiene refers to the sleep habits you do to ensure you get a good night’s sleep. A major aspect of good sleep hygiene is reducing the amount of screen time around bedtime. This can be done in several ways which are listed below.3-5

Establish boundaries

Set a specific time each night to power down electronic devices. This allows the brain to adjust to the decreasing light levels, signaling the body that it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep.3-5

Use night mode

Many devices now come with a "night mode" feature that reduces the amount of blue light emitted. Activating this mode a few hours before bedtime can help reduce disruptions to melatonin production.3-5

This or That

Have you tried blue light blocking glasses?

Create a relaxing bedtime routine

Develop a screen-free routine that signals to your body that it is time to sleep. This could include activities like reading a physical book, practicing some relaxation techniques, or taking a warm bath. Anything that is going to calm you down and relax you.3-5

Be mindful of screen time

If you are a parent of children or teens, you might want to set some guidelines and rules around screen time use. Set limits on social media use. Consider using apps that track and manage daily screen time.3-5

Keep screens out of the bedroom

Experts recommend using your bedroom for only 2 things: Sex and sleep. This means using your bedroom for sleeping, not scrolling. No more bringing your laptop to the bed to answer "just one more email" or browse the web. Keep screens out of your bedroom as much as possible. If your phone serves as your alarm clock, set it across the room so you are not tempted to pick it up and scroll as you try to go to sleep.4,5

Featured Forum

View all responses caret icon

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

How long have you been dealing with insomnia?