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Students struggle to balance gadgets and a good night’s sleep

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Experts say lights from electronics can impact falling asleep. Credit: Alaina Lewis | For The Lantern

Experts say lights from electronics can impact falling asleep. Credit: Alaina Lewis | For The Lantern

Adam Jankowski, a second-year in marketing, has made a nightly routine of watching Netflix and scrolling through his phone while trying to fall asleep.

“I’ll check texts, snaps, tweets, anything like that while I’m in bed — kind of scrolling to just unwind from the day,” Jankowski said.  “I would say, usually, I have some trouble falling asleep. I’m not someone who can just lay down and knock out.”

Jankowski said that during spring break he became aware of how being on his devices and binge-watching Netflix adversely impacted his sleep schedule.

Sleep experts have recently said that students should put their electronic devices away two hours before bed because the blue light emitted from the screens of devices — such as laptops and smartphones — can hamper people’s ability to fall asleep.

Numerous studies have linked blue light to suppressing users’ melatonin levels and shifting their circadian rhythms, making it more difficult for them to fall asleep.

Dr. Rami Khayat, a pulmonologist specializing in sleep medicine at the Wexner Medical Center, has studied how the use of electronics impact sleep. Khayat said studies have shown exposure to electronic screens within two hours of bedtime can result in changes in sleep-producing hormones and the body’s biological clock in the subsequent 24 hours, resulting in a more delayed natural sleep time.

Jankowski said it can be especially difficult to cut out electronics two hours before bed when classes might require online work and studying.

“I’m in an online class right now, and then I’m in a few hybrid classes, so that means I’ll watch lectures online, and then we go in-person and do problem sets and do discussions,” he said. “I’m in another class that I’m typing papers for. I would say I’m on my computer probably six to seven to eight hours a day.”

Sammie Fox, a second-year in biology, said she too is on her devices until she falls asleep because she does not want to miss anything for class or on social media.

“I usually check my email at least once before bed because I like to know when grades are put in,” Fox said. “I’ll do that and make sure I didn’t miss anything for assignments, and then I’ll just get on social media because that’s my break in the day.”

Khayat said that although many students cannot go two hours without touching their devices, some downtime between studying and sleeping is crucial for a good night’s rest.

“Studying up to the last minute will result in a  very active and agitated brain, and difficulty relaxing to initiate and maintain sleep,” he said in an email.

With finals approaching, Khayat said cramming and getting little sleep do not have long-term consequences if done in moderation, but a continuous irregular sleep-wake schedule can be harmful to student success.

When it comes to sleep and test performance, Fox said getting a good night’s sleep positively affects her grades by making her more awake and aware, opposed to cramming all night and feeling drowsy throughout the day.

Jankowski also said he notices a correlation between his sleep and test performance.

“I think when I get more sleep I’m in a better mood and I think, as a consequence, I’m more focused and more concentrated on the test,” Jankowski said.

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