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Home : News : News
NEWS | June 1, 2017

Cell phones are stealing your sleep

By 1st Lt. Jason Kilgore Regional Health Command Pacific

Sleep is a vital part of one’s health; however, something that is used in everyday life is stealing minutes, even hours of sleep without the user’s knowledge.

Mobile smart phones are commonly the last thing that most people use right before going to sleep.

There are simple nuances that app designers use to intentionally keep people awake.

“The average adult should be getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night,” said Integrated Behavioral Health Consultant and Staff Psychologist, Dr. Darryl Salvador, Patient Centered Medical Home/Family Medicine Clinic, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. “If someone was to get less than five hours of sleep for 5 days or more, they will have a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 percent, which is the same as being legally drunk.”

If someone gets less than four hours of sleep, it increases to 0.10, which creates a concern for safety.

With the month of June designated as National Safety Month, individuals have the opportunity to recommit themselves to becoming more cognizant of their own safety and the safety of those around them.

According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Report on crash risk and lack of sleep from December 2016:

• 37 percent of drivers report having fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point in their lives
• 11 percent report having fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past year. Drowsiness was involved in one in five fatal crashes
• Drowsy drivers are involved in an estimated 21 percent of fatal crashes, up from 16.5 percent in 2010
• After getting only 5-6 hours of sleep, crash risk increased by 1.9 times compared to getting normal sleep of 7-9 hours.

In light of these statistics, the importance of sleep can’t be overstated.

During sleep, both the body and brain are undergoing repair, establishing new connections between synapses, and removing plaque buildup, which has been implicated in the development of dementia and memory loss difficulties.

It is also storing all the events and information into memory.

The less sleep one gets, the less the brain is capable of repairing itself completely.

A major commonality that has been observed in those who complain about poor sleep is that they use their phone before bed.

“We are unknowingly allowing phones to affect our sleep. Along with stimulation from games or face book posts, our phones produce a wavelength that has the ability to keep us awake; some app designers use this to their advantage.”

According to Salvador, there is a reason as to why some of the most popular social media sites use generous amounts of blue in their apps and logos. “Blue light is stimulating to the eyes and when combined with the stimulation from what one is reading or playing, it makes it very hard to fall asleep,” stated Salvador.

Scientific date also shows that the blue light from smart phones inhibits the release of melatonin, disrupting normal cycles.

For example, throughout the day, a person’s melatonin levels naturally increase, which causes individuals to become tired by night fall.

As sleep ensues, melatonin levels eventually decrease.

By using a phone before bed, the blue light emitted tricks the brain into thinking that it’s still daylight and time to be awake.

Here are a few things that can help create a good sleeping pattern:
• Create a consistent sleep schedule. Go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning
• Don’t consume any caffeinated products six hours before bed
• Make sure that the room is quiet, dark and cool
• Stay away from, or turn off all electronics at least 30 minutes before bed
• Establish a wind down routine to calm your mind and transition to sleep.
• Use the bed only for intimacy and sleeping
• Disable all notifications until it’s time to wake up
• Place the phone on the opposite side of the room

Patients are also encouraged to speak with their medical provider, who can assess health factors further and assist in ordering a consult for a sleep study as needed.

There are multiple ways to get assistance in getting better sleep. There is an app called “CBT-I coach.” This app assists with tracking sleep and providing suggestions to increase the quality and duration of sleep.

There are plenty of factors that can affect performance and health, don’t let sleep be one of them!