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ARE WE TOO WIRED TO SLEEP?



Joined: 1/4/2009
Posts: 12
Bob
I came across a great article that talks about the effects of electronic media on our ability to get a good night's sleep (which is important to every stage of life).

I think you'll all find this helpful...

Once upon a time, before humans gained the ability to harness electricity (can you imagine such a time?), our internal body clocks kept to a strict schedule. When it was dark, we slept. When it was light, we were awake. People in pre-electrical times got an average of 10 hours of sleep per night, more than enough to get them through a full and productive day of work. Then, something happened that changed sleep schedules forever.

The invention of the light bulb, which graced us with 24 hours of daylight, marked the beginning of a sleep deficit that has been growing gradually over generations. Further down the technological timeline came telephones, radios, televisions, computers, and cellular devices that do so much more than make phone calls, all enabling us to stay “plugged in” and ever connected to the outside world. In the nightly hours we text, blog, share, and surf through a virtually infinite supply of information. We can post reviews on music videos from Japan, research where to get the world’s tastiest schnitzel…not to mention access hundreds of HD channels! Who has time to sleep with that kind of power?

The problem is, America’s batteries are in dire need of a re-charge. We are overworked, overstressed, and desperately low on juice. Millions of Americans are suffering from sleep problems, trading healthy, natural sleep for caffeinated beverages or sleep aids. (The stresses of the economy, wars overseas, and concern about decreasing our ‘carbon footprint’ can’t be helping anyone sleep soundly.) What’s worse, the National Sleep Foundation notes an increase in bringing work home to complete during offhours we can thank email and Blackberry devices for making this possible. Recent research warns us of the link between sleep deprivation and a whole slew of health problems. Is that enough to get us to unplug?

INFORMATION OVERLOAD
After a hectic workday, we all want to unwind. For many of us, that means going on the computer and downloading music, uploading photos, or performing some other form of digital transaction. For some, it means popping in our favorite sports video game, catching up on a TV show we have recorded on TiVo, or just flipping through to see what’s on. Using these digitized activities for relaxation too close to bedtime can have dire effects on our ability to get to sleep at night. We think we’re winding down, but the bright lights and flashing images areactually getting us hyped up.

According to a May 2003 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, staring at a bright monitor or playing video games before bed can not only affect your ability to get to sleep, but can also affect the quality of the sleep you get. Our biological clocks are wired to be awake when exposed to light. Researchers found that working at a computer or playing video games before bed affected body temperature and production of melatonin, a hormone the body uses in regulating our sleep-wake cycles. Subjects who played computer games before bed were found to produce lower levels of our natural chemical sleep inducer, melatonin. While sleeping, body temperatures remained higher than normal, indicating an inability to shut down completely

GENERATION ELECTRIC
Our attachment to our mobile gadgets, computerized doohickeys, and all things digital is manifesting in the younger generations to a dangerous degree. Kids in grammar school today were raised in the computer age, and can’t look back on the time before the internet and cell phones connected them to their entire clique during post-school hours. A study conducted by the National Centre On Sleep Disorders Research in the USA showed that teenagers who had 4 or more “mentally stimulating devices”—cell phones, TVs, computers—in their bedrooms were more likely to fall asleep while in class or while doing their homework. Ninety-seven percent of 11 to 17-year-olds had at least one of these devices in their bedroom, and only 1 in 5 respondents were getting the 9 hours of sleep that is recommended for that age group (published in Youth Studies Australia, 2006). If these practices continue unchecked, the long-term health effects could be severe for the coming generations that will be born with USB cables for veins.

TIME TO DISCONNECT
Separation is difficult, no one is arguing that. Our love affair with all things electronic is exciting, expansive, extraterrestrial even. But, if you want to help yourself sleep better, it’s time to unplug and truly unwind…at least a couple of hours before bedtime. Turn cell phones off before you get
into bed so you won’t be disturbed by late-night calls, text messages or Blackberry email alerts. As better sleep tip lists all over the internet will tell you, it’s a good idea to keep the bedroom about sleep. Keep televisions, computers, and any other mentally stimulating devices out of the bedroom so your mind can view the room as a place of rest. While getting the kids to turn off the TV and computer a good while before bed could be like asking them to stop breathing, remember…their health depends on it.

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Editor's Note: At Stage of Life we are always looking for great information that can help our readers live happier, healthier lives. As part of that mission, we recently started reaching out to experts in certain areas.

This article was sourced and used with permission from Sleepy's, The Mattress Professionals (one of our preferred coupon partners on Stage of Life).


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