We live in a world where it is increasingly difficult to switch off. And this can easily be traced back to the ubiquitous mobile phone. Smartphones keep us continuously connected to everything else.
There are friends and family connections, social networks, and even remote connections to our day jobs. The tendency not to want to miss any calls, texts, social media updates, news, emails, and much more has eaten into our free time.
And our sleeping patterns too. It is now a foregone conclusion that lack of adequate sleep is associated with multiple maladies. The less you sleep, the less productive you will be at work. Still, the less you sleep, the more you predispose yourself to chronic diseases that include cardiovascular conditions, poor mental health, and disrupted immune mechanisms that leave you vulnerable to much else.
Aiming for seven to nine hours of good sleep every night is regarded as optimal for good health. But most readers will rarely clock the recommended duration of sleep time. Well, your poor sleep patterns may be nothing to do with the prevailing temperatures or the discomfort from your mattress or pillows. Unrecognized addiction to your smartphone may be the reason.
It has been known for years that the background light emitted by phone screens can make it harder to fall asleep. Exposure to this light emission before going to sleep can confuse the brain into thinking it’s still daytime and inhibit the natural process of falling asleep. Years ago, a survey on phone habits found that more than a quarter of adults look at their phones within five minutes of going to bed.
A further one-third will check the pings on their phones if they awaken in the middle of the night. Some will even read and respond to emails and texts in the dead of the night. If you are one such person, stop kidding yourself about being on top of stuff. On the contrary, you are just elevating your risks of sleep deprivation. Sleep experts recommend about an hour of phone-free time before going to bed. Most phones already have inbuilt apps that can automate your downtime as you edge towards your bed.
The phone will switch to night mode and keep the background screen less disruptive. All incoming alerts will be silenced to leave you at peace. You don’t have to worry about missing anything important, it will all be there when you eventually awaken.
You can configure selected overrides for emergency situations. But really, you could just switch off the phone and hit the sack nicely. Your aim must be to literally sleep your way into good health. But some may suffer from sleeping disorders regardless of their connectivity patterns. If you are one such, you should consult a sleep specialist.
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Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist.