Get Your Sleep On

Another 5 minutes pass and you realize you’re about to run head first into a midnight existential crisis. Before this impending doom sets up shop, you reach for your phone or tablet and try to distract yourself with the favorite news/blog/social media site that you forgot to check that day. Next thing you know, your well-deserved sleep has been all but sidelined and reduced to 2-4 hours.

While it does seem like a harmless way to pass the time, using an electronic device as a cuddle buddy is essentially a terrible idea. According to a study conducted by Dr. Larry Rosen of California State University, the two most common motives for “using (and misusing) technology are (1) poor executive functioning, which includes our (in)ability to pay attention, problem solve, control our impulses, and make decisions, and (2) anxiety.” In this regard, Dr. Rosen includes FOMO or “fear of missing out” in his definition of anxiety. Not sure if FOMO applies to you? Then think about those times when you accidentally left your phone at home or when your phone’s battery died and there was no charger in sight. How about the time you jumped out of your sleep to check your favorite artist’s social media pages and website for album updates? Has your heart started to race? If so, you are officially a member of the FOMO society. Now grab yourself some water and let me explain how FOMO contributes to your sleep deprivation.

For most Americans, the practice of using an electronic device before sleep has become routine.  A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation revealed an estimated 95% of Americans use some form of electronic device (cell phone/tablet/TV/etc.) within an hour of going to sleep. Now I know what you’re thinking – “But what if I’m just setting my alarms for the next day? That obviously can’t count.” Well my friend, you would be wrong. Whether it is setting your alarms for the next day or strolling through the virtual streets of Twitter or Facebook, using your device of choice before or during bedtime can seriously disrupt your sleeping pattern. Furthermore, using your electronic device to alleviate nighttime anxiety places you at a higher risk for sleep deprivation since you’re more likely to use the device right up until the time you fall asleep.

Blue lights from LED-based devices like phones, tablet, and computers inhibit the production of melatonin and increase the release of cortisol in the brain. Melatonin is the key hormone that helps us fall asleep. Increased cortisol makes us more alert and results in extended periods of wakefulness. This explains why those of us using our electronic devices before and during bedtime may experience increased difficulty falling AND staying asleep. Unfortunately, extended periods of sleep deprivation can result in a number of health issues that includes impaired reasoning, a lowered sex drive, and increased risk of serious health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

Ready to change your sleep routine? Great! We here at the National Women’s Health Network have you covered. March 6th – 13th is National Sleep Awareness Week. To commemorate this special occasion, the National Sleep Foundation has released sleep tips and an infographic to help you achieve #7Days4BetterSleep. For more information and to take the “NSF Pledge for Better Sleep!,” click here.  Happy sleeping!

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