Using a computer before bed can cause stimulation of the hypothalamus that interferes with sleep. For those who sleep very well this isn't necessarily a problem, as such people can go from laptop to deep sleep within minutes.
But for those who struggle to fall asleep quickly and/or suffer from periodic waking, the stimulation caused by a computer screen will heighten sleep problems.
In this generation of social networking where pretty much our entire lives are online, it is easy to end up on the computer late into the evening. One last Facebook post, one last email, one more Skype conversation…
Much has been documented on WIFI and the way in which it stimulates brain activity, yet there have been no official warnings regarding computers and sleep.
From my own personal testing I know that using the computer late into the evening affects my sleep. It takes me longer to fall asleep; my brain buzzes with ideas, thoughts and images – I am tired but my brain is restless.
The problem is that the bright light and complex detail displayed on the screen tells the brain it should be awake, and after shutting the computer down it will take a good couple of hours for a bad sleeper to settle into sleep mode.
I recommend turning off the computer at least 2-hours before preparing for sleep. Be disciplined. If your sleep time is 11.30pm then the computer goes off before 9.30pm. It is preferable to read over watching TV very late at night, but the TV does not affect the brain like a computer does.
This is because to accommodate the presentation of small, yet well-defined images, computer monitors utilise smaller dot (pixel) sizes and greater convergence standards than those applicable to television receivers.
In computer monitors, the video frequency (bandwidth), which is the measurement determining how many dots can be transmitted per second to form an image, is generally 15 MHz or greater. But in case of TV or video monitors, the bandwidth is generally not more than 6 MHz. This makes for ‘lighter' viewing, so to speak.
The less brain stimulation around bedtime the better. Allow your brain to settle and your body to relax. Stimulation signals to the brain that you don't want to sleep, and although you may feel tired, when you get into bed your brain will still be ‘buzzing' from the computer.
If you have to use the computer in the evening as part of your job or for essential communication, dim the display as much as possible to reduce the light emitted by the screen. Make the text size bigger, too, so that your brain doesn't have to work unnecessarily hard to process the detail.