Sleep is something we always seem to lack. Whether your a busy professional or going to school it’s not uncommon to see people yawning due to an apparent lack of sleep. Let’s explore the need for sleep and how technology has both affected sleep and more importantly, how it can help!
What is sleep?
Chemicals which signal nerves (aka neurotransmitters) control whether we are asleep or awake by interacting with a group of nerve cells in the brain. Nerves in the brainstem, which connects the brain with the spinal cord have serotonin and norepinephrine that keep some parts of the brain active while we are awake. Other neurons at the base of the brain begin signaling when we fall asleep. These neurons appear to turn off the signals that keep us up. Another important chemical involved in sleep is is the hormone melatonin. The body’s level of melatonin normally increases after darkness falls, making people feel drowsy.
During sleep, we usually pass through five cyclicals phases of sleep: stages 1, 2 (we spend about 50% of our sleep here), 3, 4, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep (around 20%). Different age groupsn require different types of sleep. For example Infants are REM sleeping 50% of the time.
How much sleep do I need?
This greatly depends on your age group. An infant needs around 16 hours of sleep a day, A teenager around 9 hours and an adult needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep a day. When your pregnant you need to sleep a little more.
If you do not sleep the required hours you give your body a ‘sleep debt’ which can impair your judgement, reaction time among other functions.
Are laptops, smartphones and tablets helping me sleep?
According to studies conducted by universities in the US and Norway our favorite devices are obstructing our production of melatonin, the bright light from the screen ‘tricking’ the brain into thinking there is still daylight.
In the US study the participants who read from a tablet before bed took about 10 minutes longer to fall asleep, had less melatonin in their blood, less REM sleep, and said they were far more tired the next day.
The Norway study does not give any better news, adding that even electromagnetic radiation maybe an additional factor disturbing your sleep!
How can I keep my tech and still get some rest?
- Find out how much time your using your technology with apps like QualityTime for Android and Moment for iOS.
- Resolve not to use your smartphone in bed by moving your charging station out of the bedroom and replacing your smartphone alarm clock with a real one!
- Use apps like Twilight for Android or f.lux for laptops and iOS which promises to get you ready to sleep by making the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.
How has technology affected you? How do you use technology and still get some rest? Give us a shout @drdigible!