Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The High Price of the Fully-wired Life

Many of us love our laptops, smart phones, tablets and reading devices. We love them so much, that it's hard to part with them at the end of the day. In fact, some of us sleep with them, so as not to miss any in-coming messages or in case we think of something that needs doing during the night. But at what cost?

When we use our electronic devices close to bedtime, though, the stimulation from their use can delay our ability to fall asleep. Video games keep our brain hopping. Work-related worries can be stressful. Stress and excitement can cause our body to enter a "flight or fight" mode in which cortisol, the stress hormone produced by the adrenal gland, is released. As a result there is a delay in the ability to fall asleep.
In addition, the glow from the devices themselves suppresses melatonin, the hormone that is sleep-inducing.
And, by the way, working in bed can cause neck and shoulder injuries, which can also cause discomfort and mental stress.
Before we know it, we're only getting 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night, just not enough to stay healthy. Several phases of sleep are essential for brain health. For example, REM sleep is associated with learning and theta brain waves are linked with creativity. So getting enough quality sleep each night is a must.
What to do?
  1. Turn off electronic devices 15 or 30 minutes before going to bed. A hotel in Manhattan, the Benjamin, has a sleep concierge team which guests can ask to alert them to turn off their devices at a certain time to allow for a wind-down period before bed. Similar to a wake-up call, this is called a work-down call.
    Some companies have reportedly banned business emails after hours and Volkswagen, in Germany, shuts of work emails to employees Blackberrys a half-hour after their shifts.
  2. Keep your bedroom a device-free zone.
  3. Disconnect the kids. A TV in your child’s bedroom has a negative effect on sleep quality. Give him or her a relaxing book to read before bed instead of the remote.