Episode #85

Sleep and Your Screens, Not Friends

How Technology Has Altered Sleep Through the Ages

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Computer screens are calibrated to mimic daylight. As a result, their blue light can trick your body into being more awake, even in the middle of the night. (PurpleMattFish/flickr)

This episode of the New Tech City podcast explores how technology has changed sleep through the ages, specifically through artificial light.

Hear historian Roger Ekirch and psychiatrist Thomas Wehr explain how they each discovered the natural segmented sleep pattern our bodies want. And why we don't sleep that way because of modern technology.

Plus, we learn what actually happens to our brains when someone actually does return to the ancient way of sleeping: "People would sometimes say they felt a kind of crystal clear consciousness when they were awake that was not familiar to them. And it made me wonder if any of us knows what it’s really like to be awake — fully awake,” Wehr says.  

Even though technology is the problem, it can also be the solution. "You have people that are using their phones as alarm clocks, people who are checking their phones all night long... And every time you get that hit of light, it’s like a hit of espresso, and we’d like to fix that for everybody,” says Lorna Herf, co-creator of the app f.lux. She and her husband have an app and a plan.

The revelations in this episode might be a wake-up call. You’ll sleep better after listening to this one.

If you liked this episode, why not subscribe to New Tech City on iTunes and follow us on Twitter. 

    Music Playlist
  1. Asphalt Gods
    Artist: Kenneth J Brahmstedt
  2. Bounce Today Instrumental
    Artist: Daniel Paul Kramer
  3. Brother and Sister
    Artist: Justin Asher
  4. Still Life
    Artist: Kenneth J Brahmstedt
  5. Peaceful
    Artist: Justin Asher

Produced by:

Matt Collette

Comments [2]

Interesting, really enjoyed listening. I wasn't born with a screen at hand, but I did get into videogames (looking back, it was an unhealthy amount of hours devoted to videogaming), and that definitely kept me awake during the night. Today, it's transferred from watching a screen videogaming to computers and now computers and my iphone. It's a great convenience, but I love my sleep- really intrigued by the sleeping patterns gas-light era. I'd love to try it out sometime--

Jun. 04 2014 06:03 PM
Susan Maushart

Our family "lived the dream" of screen-free sleep for six months. The story is in my book The Winter of Our Disconnect (Tarcher/Penguin 2010). Thoreau observed "To be awake is to be alive." But there's a catch: You gotta fall asleep first. Terrific podcast.

May. 14 2014 08:34 AM

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