Not sleeping well? Blame it on the internet, says sleep survey

The time spent winding down after a long day should be a calm precursor to sleep. In that short period we divorce ourselves from activity and, if involved, recount the day with our significant other. We relax before we rest. Or at least we should.

The National Sleep Foundation (yes, a foundation that studies sleep exists) released a poll yesterday detailing how (and if) Americans are sleeping now that everyone is connected to everyone. Do you lie in bed and check friends’ Facebook status updates? Compose emails to get a jump-start at work? Search YouTube for hilarious cat videos? You’re not alone.

The “Sleep in America” poll, conducted by WB&A Market Research and including generational groups from the Baby Boom era to the younger, technophilic Generation Z, researched just over 1,500 people. It found that more and more people aren’t sleeping well, and that active technology like cell phones (as opposed to passive technology like TV) are a common activity before bed – one that may impede the process.

David Cloud, the NSF CEO, says, “This poll explores the association between Americans’ use of communication technologies and sleep habits. While these technologies are commonplace, it is clear that we have a lot more to learn about the appropriate use and design of this technology to complement good sleeping habits.”

Unsurprisingly, the older you are the less likely it is you’re distracted by the siren song of technology.

Pointing to video games, the poll found the older Generation X and Baby Boomer groups only played before bed 15% and 12% of the time, respectively. Their younger counterparts reported gaming before calling it a night much more frequently, with 36% of the Generation Z group and 28% of the Generation Y group admitting to some last minute online fragging. Watching TV rates more favorable among the older set: 67% of Baby Boomers and 63% of Generation X’ers watch the boob tube just before bed. Compare that with Generation Zs 50% and Generation Ys 49%, which, while not a huge difference, illustrates a common assumption: the younger you are, the more likely you are to use active technology. The findings for cell phone usage support that assumption, too.

Texting is great, but anyone who’s been woken up in the dead of night by their phone or find themselves unable to put it down can attest that it rarely makes for a good bedfellow. It’s easy to become wrapped up in social drama or a sloppy text conversation – something that happens to 56% of Generation Z respondents and 42% of their Generation Y cohorts.

So, what do all these numbers mean? We’re more and more letting technology affect not just our waking hours, but our resting ones too.

As someone who has a bad habit of playing video games, texting and watching TV (sometimes at the same time!) just before bed this study holds truth. It used to be only watching TV as I drifted off to sleep, but even a technological curmudgeon like me finds his habits changed thanks to not only the proliferation of new gadgets but the fact they can accompany you in the sack. Tapping away on work in bed is simple with a laptop. Updating a status is quick and painless with an iPod Touch. Falling asleep? Much more difficult these days.

Do you find yourself awake at night fiddling with gadgets instead of counting sheep? Let us know in the comment section, and please describe your poison.