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Technology to blame for nation's lack of sleep

Thursday - 1/9/2014, 4:52pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Getting a good night's sleep is so important, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls "insufficient" sleep a public health epidemic.

New technology may be part of the problem.

LED lights used in some high efficiency light bulbs, smart phones, computer screens, and flat screen TVs produce the type of light most disruptive to a body's natural sleep cycle.

The melatonin a body produces to promote sleep doesn't get going as well when it's exposed to short wavelengths of light in the blue part of the light spectrum. That's the kind of light produced by light emitting diodes (LEDs).

Artificial light of any kind after the sun goes down helps throw off a body's natural circadian rhythm. But lighting can be adjusted to minimize negative effects on a good night's sleep.

Warm colored, yellow-based lighting is best before bedtime, according to professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School Charles A. Czeisler.

Also, "it may be that gradually lowering the light might be more powerful than just shutting them off all at once," Czeisler tells Bloomberg Technology.

Czeisler also recommends people impose a technology curfew before bedtime.

Recommendations for good sleep from The National Sleep Foundation include establishing a regular relaxing bedtime routine, avoiding caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the late afternoon and evening, not using a bed for anything other than sleep or sex, and exercising regularly at least three hours before bedtime.

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