It seems to be a quiet epidemic running through society like the plague, yet instead of stopping it, we continue to feed the disease. As technology has done great things for society by increasing communication, streamlining projects, and enhancing productivity, it has also illuminated negative consequences.
Cell phone buzzing, blinking lights, televisions, and iPads are quietly and secretly ruining our sleep patterns and quality shut eye in the bedroom. Those crucial two hours prior to sleep, when we all should be relaxing our minds, we are plugging electricity into them and stimulating them to explosion. Focus and productivity, which are two of the primary reasons we use technology, are actually taking those away with extended night usage.
You’re Frying Your Brain!
The somewhat alarming reason for shutting off your technology prior to sleep is purely a study of brain function and cognitive stimulation. During the day and times of extreme concentration, human beings are stimulating their brains to the maximum extent – and some even more now thanks to the schedule I drug called Adderall.
But just like any activity, the human brain can only take so much. Some adapt differently than others, but ultimately a person, for example, can only run for a certain amount of time without collapse. The same principle applies to electronic stimulation within the brain. If you have ever seen a three hour epic Lord of the Rings movie, than you know what I am talking about. I was about to fall asleep on my way out of the movie theater.
This is no coincidence, as the neurons start to race in the brain as electrical activity increases, causing a sharp drop in energy and concentration levels after extended use. When you are in your bedroom, usually you are attempting to prepare yourself for sleep, but in reality, electronics are actually promoting the complete opposite.
If we look at the science behind sleep we will find that there is a strong correlation between light cycles and sleeping cycles. When the natural light, also known as the sun, goes down around you, your brain is telling you that it is time to begin ‘winding down’. By turning on the television or hopping on the iPad, you are extending the amount of light exposure and ultimately tricking your brain into continuous stimulation. The “glow” from electronic device is the real death wish for quality shuteye as small amounts of light from electronic devices pass through the retina and delay melatonin.
The Real Cause of Stress
During night time responses, the brain controls several sleep activities involuntarily without conciseness approval. Electrical activity will delay the release of the sleep-inducing hormone known as melatonin, as stated above. If you begin to create habits with reducing melatonin levels during appropriate times, you will start to develop insomnia and other chronic sleeping disorders.
The cause of stress is not the electrical activity or the stimulation because we already know that an active life is a healthy life. The problem is the timeline – your body should be relaxing in order to recover from the day and prepare you for the next, but the physical response to technology is tension – and tension creates stress within the body and mind.
Another unknown stress promoter is your cell phone ‘buzzing’ and ‘ringing’ during night time sleep cycles. That desperate friend calling at 2:30am on a Saturday night for a ride home is actually causing you stress before you even read the text message. Abrupt sounds or shakes during sleep cycles cause insomnia if habitual. According to university studies, loud noises or intense movements affect the R.E.M. sleep cycle and ultimately causes the quality of sleep to dramatically decrease.
Stick to Yoga and Just Be Bored
Unfortunately, erasing electronics from one’s nightly routine is a hard habit to break, especially because we live in such a digital world and many people are fully engaged during the day, only allowing a finite amount of personal time at night. Studies have shown, though, that performing yoga or other mediation platforms prior to sleep (approximately 2 hours prior) is the best way to fight insomnia and promote healthy cycles.
Even reading a quality book will help to return natural melatonin levels within the body, but studies still show that even reading a book causes the brain to delay the release of melatonin slightly because the brain is still stimulated during reading hours. In addition, if a person reads with too much light, the same effect may occur as with electronic “glow”. If they don’t use enough light, the eye-strain may cause stress prior to sleep.
So really the only solution is yoga, meditation, or just sitting and staring at the walls. Obviously, some electronic stimulation is okay ever now and then with a fine glass of pinot noir, just don’t sit in front of the television for two hours playing Call of Duty (which sounds tempting) and then head to the bed – you will lower your overall, long-term productiveness.
Matthew Hall is a professional writer and marketing consultant at Saatva. Matthew lives in Orlando, Florida and enjoys spending his spare time with his family.