Checking email could be robbing you of sleep!

By Fred Childers -  bio|email

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) -  If we got enough sleep at night we wouldn't need an alarm clock to wake up, that's according to the Mayo Clinic.

To blame, in part, is the glow of electronic devices.

It surrounds us every single day in a world where sleep is already taking a backseat. 

Many LSUS students report getting as many as 6 hours, some as few as three.

Most agree there's a difference between getting enough, and getting what's possible.

"The way stuff is now with school and work, it's impossible," says one student.

But if we treated sleep as essential as breathing, we'd probably get more of it.

"Sleep is essential, otherwise it wouldn't be about a third of your day," said Dr. Nabil Moufarrej. He runs the Neurology and Sleep Clinic in Shreveport.

Moufarrej sees a variety of interruptions to sleep, and one of them he says is light.

"Our sleep is regulated by light," said Dr. Moufarrej.

Not surprisingly, putting it in your face, with computer screens or smart phones just before bedtime is a problem.

"When we see the light in the morning it suppresses our melatonin hormone," said Dr. Moufarrej.

Melatonin is natural chemical in your body that helps you sleep.

Another melatonin killer - video games.

"And when we work on all that stuff we are taking the light to bed with us, and it's going to suppress our melatonin to some extent, and we're not going to sleep as well," said Dr. Moufarrej.

Adrenaline pumping video games are a double whammy.

"You're more stimulated, so you're relaxation phase is not going to be as easy," said Dr. Moufarrej.

To illustrate the effects of little sleep, I deny myself an entire night's worth.

And at 9 O clock the next morning, I challenged KSLA News 12 intern, Erin Buchanan, who had a full night's sleep, to an online reaction time test.

Not surprisingly, Erin won, which was no surprise to Dr. Moufarrej. "Your brain needs time to recoup the functions of the different sleep stages, help with your memory, help with your retention, and help with your judgment, and performance the next day," said Dr. Moufarrej.

Poor performance on the internet means nothing, but on America's highways it's deadly.

"Approximately 40,000 drivers last year were involved in crashes where drivers were either fatigued or had fallen asleep," said Louisiana State Trooper Cordell Williams.

Obviously going an entire night without sleep caused some problems. My reaction time was pretty slow. But even more disruptive than staying up all night is going every night, just getting a few hours of sleep over and over again. Because you create what's called sleep debt.

"If you stay up for a whole week you're not going to make up a total of let's say you sleep only three hours instead of eight or day times five you're not going to go sleep fifteen hours on top of what you really need. But you will sleep more and gradually sleep until you get back into balance," said Dr. Moufarrej.

He goes onto say that it takes time to recoup all that sleep - time that the sleepless obviously don't have. 

So skip the emails and video games at least an hour before you turn in, and you could add hours to your night, and years to your life.

Too much light before bed is just one of many impediments to your sleep. Here's a guide from the Better Sleep Council to help you get a better night's rest. Good night!

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