Tuesday night, many of us will be glued to our TVs or Twitter feeds, tuning in for up-to-the-minute coverage of the 2012 presidential election. While a night in front of the screen might be a typical Tuesday for many, the close race -- not to mention the viewing parties -- could make for a potentially late night.
In fact, more than half of Americans already know they'll be staying up later than usual on election night, according to a recent Tempur-Pedic and Edelman Berland survey. Of the 1,000 American adults polled, 52 percent said they expect to be up past their normal bedtimes. In fact, the average American will stay up more than 90 minutes later than a typical Tuesday night, according to the survey.
Staying up later than usual on just one night might not seem like an enormous problem, but most of us are already operating in a sleep-deprived fog. "People aren't getting enough sleep already," says Dr. Robert Oexman, director of the Sleep to Live Institute and HuffPost blogger. More than 40 percent of Americans say they rarely or never get a good night's sleep. "Compound that with another hour or two hours of not getting sleep, and we have to be extra cautious," he says.
That's because even just one hour less of sleep can have a serious impact on your likelihood of getting into a car accident, for example, or even of having a heart attack. In the days after we shift the clocks forward in the spring at the start of Daylight Saving Time, we see an increase in heart attacks, says Oexman, due just to that one lost hour of sleep. That said, for the majority of people, skimping a little on sleep on Tuesday night won't be a disaster, he says.
However, spending that extra hour or so watching election coverage could spiral into an even later night, considering most people won't be feeling particularly relaxed during the evening. We know that laptop screens, TVs, tablets and smartphones -- all the places you're likely to be keeping up with the results -- emit blue light, which stimulates the brain to stay awake and alert.
"Thirty minutes to an hour before you go to bed you have to start winding down," says Oexman, Tuesday or any other night. "You'll see preliminary results fairly early," he says. "Realize you're not going to make any changes to the results and just turn it off." Even if it's a neck-and-neck race, there's not going to be much to report at 4 a.m., so accept that in the morning whatever happens will happen. Power down the laptop and leave the phone out of the bedroom, he says.
Speaking of the morning: getting up earlier than usual to check the results isn't a great alternative to staying up late. Either way, you're losing out on sleep, and it's more disruptive to stray from your normal morning routine than your typical bedtime, says Oexman. "I'd rather see someone stay up a little later," he says. "We tell people no matter what, maintain your normal wakeup schedule."
Will you stay up later than usual on election night? Let us know your plans in the comments!