Tell us, what is the last thing that you do every night before you fall asleep? And what is the first thing you do upon waking up? In the 21st century, chances are your answer to both of these questions is – checking your phone. Today we can’t seem to live without our beloved screens, be it our good ol’ TV, our laptops or computers, or, of course, the endless feeds of social media on our smartphones. But having technology so permeated in our lifestyles has many consequences, one of which can manifest in the quality of your sleep. To learn more, read on.
Sweet Dreams Are Made of…
To get to the very base of the topic, first, we have to pin down a few things about one of the core human activities: sleep. From the moment you doze off to the moment you are cruelly awakened by the annoying sound of your alarm, you actually go through several sleep cycles. Each cycle consists of different stages of sleep. These can be grouped into a light sleep (which is when your brain processes memories and your metabolism is regulated). Deep sleep, which is a restorative period for your body. REM, which is when dreaming happens, as well as a kind of “decluttering” of your brain. In which stage you wake up will largely influence how refreshed you feel in the morning.
Put It Down
What does technology have to do with this all, you might ask. Well, it can disturb your good night’s sleep in several ways. First and foremost, staring at a screen shortly before bedtime will mess with your melatonin production – the hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. The blue light coming from your phone’s screen will trick your brain into thinking it is still daytime and not yet time for sleep – hence insomnia.
Moreover, many of our gadgets produce different sounds (and signals) too that will keep your brain awake. Finally, the state of being constantly connected actually puts a lot of stress on us. A work e-mail popping up just as you were about to call it a day raises your cortisol levels. So does watching a horror movie. Therefore, it is advised that you put technology down at least an hour before your bedtime and that you make your bedroom a tech-free zone.
A Bedtime Routine
Besides cutting out certain things from your bedtime ritual, you could also introduce a few things that might improve the quality of your sleep. Firstly, try to be consistent with your bedtime. Your body loves routine, so it will be easier to fall asleep if you do it at the same time every day. You can also try and make the environment relaxing, as well as yourself as relaxed as possible before turning in.
For the former, make sure the lights are not too harsh – a dimmer switch will help in this. As for the latter, see what would put you in a relaxed mood. Is it your favorite, soothing music? A lavender scented candle? Other great suggestions include introducing yoga, meditation or a relaxing massage into your bedtime routine. The benefits of massage are tremendous – some studies even claim that a good massage induces the production of serotonin and melatonin, and that’s a good recipe for healthy sleep!
Sleep Deprivation as a Health Concern
In the old days, people rose and went to sleep with the rising and setting sun. But, today that is not really a viable option. When you’re staying awake to meet a tight deadline or keep clicking “next episode” on your favorite show on Netflix, thinking that you’ll just catch up on that sleep when the weekend comes, you are making a mistake. Sleep deprivation is a state that brings a lot of negative effects.
We already mentioned a few important brain and bodily processes that happen during shuteye – memory consolidation, restoration, etc. Therefore, it’s not hard to see why not getting enough sleep results in a bad mood and irritability. Reduced levels of concentration and performance are caused by it, too. However, there are even more serious, long-term consequences of sleep deprivation. Increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, and the list goes on. Make sure you don’t sacrifice your sleep as you might be sacrificing your health at the same time.
Technology is so integrated into our lives now that it’s practically impossible to cut it out. However, it’s up to you to regulate your exposure to it in the hours preceding your bedtime. So, put your phone on airplane mode, dim the lights, and have a good night’s sleep at last!
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