Like many others, my cell phone is my go-to alarm at night, both at home and when travelling. Research shows that 48% of those aged 16-34 use an alarm on their cell phone compared to only 26% of those aged 35-54 and 9% of those over the age of 55. Having our cell phones within arm’s reach at night may seem harmless to us, but technology affects our sleep in more ways than we realize.
Electronic back-lit devices such as cell phones, tablets, e-readers, computers, and televisions emit blue wavelengths (shortest wavelength with the highest energy), also known as blue light. It has been well documented that blue light reduces or delays the production of melatonin, a natural hormone that controls our sleep/wake cycle. Reducing melatonin decreases feelings of sleepiness as well as the amount of time we spend in slow-wave and rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep.
Blue light is not all bad though. It has been proven that high-energy blue wavelengths improve attention, help with memory and cognitive function and elevates mood, which is beneficial during the day but not when we are trying to sleep.
The fast pace at which technology is advancing is making it increasingly more difficult for us to put our gadgets down. We have become more dependent on electronics than on human interaction. From reading the news to banking to grocery shopping, pretty much everything can be done online these days. The inevitable result being that our brains are constantly engaged. So, after spending an entire day plugged in, do we really need our electronics in the bedroom?
Technology-free bedroom is a concept many of us have heard and ignored, including myself; however, the benefits of it should not be dismissed.
More (and better) Sleep: Give your mind and body the rest it needs.
Sleep is as essential to our bodies as eating, drinking, and breathing. In addition to the visible symptoms such as yawning and daytime fatigue, researchers have linked sleep deprivation to mood swings, depression, diabetes, weight gain and cardiovascular problems. The mind and body use sleep time to heal itself and perform important neural connections that consequently aid in learning and memory retention. Mental and physical health almost entirely depends upon getting enough sleep. Too much screen time before bed can easily trick our brains into thinking that it needs to stay awake and can also eat into our precious sleep time. For better sleep, adopt a relaxing bedtime routine and consider swapping your screen time for reading time.
Conscious Reflection: Let go of your day.
The last thing we need while lying in bed at the end of the day is to be dwelling on work-related issues, an unsettling post on social media, or how to achieve world peace. The day is over, so let it go. To consciously evaluate and assess our day, it is best to disconnect ourselves from the mindless stimulation provided by our electronics. Some healthier alternatives to help us wind down and fall asleep faster include light reading, journaling, and meditation. Now is a good time to express gratitude and acknowledge everything we have accomplished throughout the day.
Morning Mindfulness: Start your day on the right foot.
Reaching for our phones to check our emails or switching the television on for a news update seems to have become like second nature to us. However, by doing so we instantly throw our minds back into the exhausting hussle and bussle of life. We over stimulate our minds before we are even fully awake, which causes us to be more distracted and less productive during the day. Instead, take a moment and start your day in silence. Starting your morning calm and relaxed sets the mood and your intentions for the day. Morning mindfulness helps us stay focused and reduces overall stress and anxiety. The endorphins released by mindfulness are also an energy booster.
It is easy for us to come up with excuses as to why a technology-free bedroom will not serve us; however, most of our excuses can be overcome by adopting healthy sleeping habits. After all, our bedrooms are for rest and relaxation, so lets leave our electronics out of them.