Sleep Problems Associated With IPhones
By Mark O’Brien
Recently some research institutions have been studying sleep problems associated with iPhones, and the results point to yet another example where our addiction to technology is having disturbing outcomes.
Australian researcher, Monash University’s School of Psychology and Psychiatry’s Professor Shantha Rajaratnam, (Melbourne) says that the short wavelength blue light emitted from backlit devices like laptops, iPhones and other smart phones, iPads or other tablets disturb the body clock and interferes with sleep.
Laptops emit around half the light that is in a normally lit room, and while smart phones emit less, usually they are held closer to the eyes and the light is directed at your eyes, i.e. the brain.
Short wavelength blue light suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that’s become well known due to its regulation and promotion of sleep function which is only produced in the dark.
If someone’s melatonin levels are low, they take longer to fall asleep and even longer to fall into a deep ‘resting’ sleep.
This impact on melatonin production varies according to how long prior to bed that we stop using these smart phones and laptops and how far away the are from our eyes.
Professor Rajaratnam recommends that the use of the backlit devises should stop two hours prior to going to bed.
This may be really difficult for parents of kids wanting to have late night chats with friends, but it may be worth the battle.
The main point is to stop or reduce usage of smart phones and laptops prior to bed as much as possible. It will pay dividends!!
Sydney’s Woolcock Insomnia Clinic’s clinical psychologist Dr Amanda Gamble says that she has been seeing more and more people with sleep related issues in her clinic.
She says that kids are often using these devices in bed to talk with friends or as alarm clocks.
Gamble went on to say that as well as the melatonin disruption these devices cause, there is an over-stimulation that being ‘plugged in’ that also inhibits sleep.
On top of that, beds are losing their role as a refuge, where kids can relax and zone out or be quiet, so changing their bed from a place of sleep and psychic retreat to yet another place where they have to interact.
Adolescents already have massive sleep issues, given that teenagers need, on a physiological level, more sleep that at any time of their lives (excluding the first year or two of life) and laptop and iPhone use just exacerbates this.
So if you have a teenager and wonder why they simply cannot get up in the morning, there is a physiological reason for this.
Create boundaries re smart phone use. Like make them leave their phones in the kitchen.
Sleep deprivation affects memory, concentration, attention span and alertness which all have implications in school. Getting a good might’s sleep is super important for kids, even if they have no recognition of that.
Longer term implications of sleep deprivation include a greater risk of anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse as well as purely physical issues like diabetes and disruption to various other of the body’s regulation mechanisms.
These things also occur in adults but as our programming has already been set to a degree, the ramifications aren’t so severe.
I myself have noticed a growing iPhone addiction that can get a bit obsessive where I always check my facebook etc when I go to bed which can sidetrack me for hours, where an hour later, barely able to keep my eyes open, I am chatting with someone about something not very important.
Watching movies and then going straight to bed mean being restless in bed to. Taking my dog out for his night time wander around ‘his’ territory, I’d experience some darkness and peacefulness for my eyes.
I’d then get to bed fairly ‘clean’ of whatever feelings were there from my evening, whether it was in front of one screen or another, or simply talking.
Basically just really good to clear the head!!
Now with no dog demanding a late night stroll, I sometimes just sit outside for a little while and let my day debrief itself prior to bed, let my psyche unwind.
I don’t always manage to do that, but I certainly notice a difference when I do, similar to having a shower.
Adapted by Mark O’Brien from an article on the ABC website, Feb 2014
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