‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Slippery Slope of Sleeplessness pt II

Last article I scared you sleepy about lack of sleep spurring obesity, and obesity spawning sleep-related diseases that prevent you sleeping soundly... Yes, that happened. This week, let's discuss your bedroom habits and surmise how to make your time between the sheets a superior sleeping experience.

Many things impact sleep, including the stresses of life like World hunger, making your rent or mortgage, picking a filter on Instagram, Facebook-stalking an ex, and watching the latest Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey.

Where for art thou point?
  • 62% of parents and 45% of kids have a TV in their room
  • 45% of parents and 30% of kids have a smartphone/tablet in their room
  • 26% of parents and 16% of kids report having sent/read emails or texts after initially going to sleep
  • Children who sometimes leave electronic devices on overnight sleep significantly less than children who turn devices off or don't have them in their bedroom
  • Having, and enforcing "bedtime rules" like time spent watching TV, caffeine consumption, time on smartphones/cell phones/tablets/video games, is correlated with significantly longer sleep times
Ok, so the important part here is 'electronic devices'. The decisive devices that divide the generations. The above survey found that within a typical 7 day period, 90% of Americans use some type of electronic device within 1 hour of going to bed. Hold that thought... We need some back-story.

What is the "Circadian Rhythm" and why should we care about it?
You've heard of your body's 24 hours clock, right? This is it. The Circadian Rhythms or Cycles are physical, mental and behavioural patterns that roughly follow a 24 hour cycle. The most potent environmental signal for your 24 hour clock is light and darkness. Humans, plants and even bacteria have these cycles. Ok, now we can press on.

What in blithering blazes is "blue light"?
Blue light is short-wavelength light (compared with longer-wavelength light). Research shows blue light disrupts your 24 hour clock. Devices like smartphones, tablets, computers, TVs, etc emit blue light.

Ok, back to devices that deliberately disallow one to drift into slumber. It's long been hypothesised that blue light and electronic devices used before bed impact sleep. A new study found devices emitting blue light suppressed melatonin release by 55%. By the by, melatonin is a sleep-promoting hormone.

The study also found that people who used blue light-emitting devices in the hours before bed:
  • Took significantly longer to fall asleep
  • Had reduced evening sleepiness
  • Displayed reduced melatonin secretion
  • Had later timing of their circadian clock
  • Had reductions in the amount of REM sleep, and delays in the onset of REM sleep
  • Were less alert the next morning
Look, it's impossible to shun technology, and sometimes it is necessary to use a device before bed. I'm a millennial, my phone sleeps on the nightstand and wakes me with a horrendous tune in the morning.

Remember from Pt I that lack of sleep plays with your body's ability to control hunger and appetite? Sacrificing sleep doesn't just turn you into a sleep-deprived zombie, it can transform you into a stout stupefied snack-snatching sleepyhead... That's definitely not healthy.

I'm not going to tell you to stop using your devices, or read a book and do yoga before bed (but if you want to...) If you want to sleep better, start small:
  • Set your alarm early in the evening so it's taken care of
  • Try to finish work/reading on devices before dinner
  • Find ways to relax without the TV, Xbox and phone
  • If you love your e-reader, invest in one that doesn't emit blue light (see list here)
All I'm saying is, knowledge is power. If you want to sleep better, be smart about your priorities.
May sleep be with you.

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