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By Susan J. White
Recent surveys show that close to a third of teenagers sleep with their cell phone or another mobile device and almost three quarters of adults have their device within reach while they sleep.
And engaging in social media has become a regular in-bed activity whether it’s the end of the day before trying to go to sleep, first thing in the morning or in the middle of the night when insomnia strikes.
While all this phone attachment has become the norm for many, health experts warn that sleeping with or next to your phone and engaging with it before you do anything else when you wake can have negative consequences.
One of the biggest problems is that being on your phone before attempting to fall asleep can sabotage your ability to both fall asleep and achieve good quality sleep.
From electronic pings, alerts and notifications that can wake you up at night to the melatonin-suppressing blue light emitted from the phone to feeling the need to check your email or twitter feed, phones are generally bad for sleep hygiene.
“We know that so many teens and adults are chronically sleep deprived, which causes a host of negative health issues,” said Camelia Musleh, MD, a neurologist and sleep expert with the NorthShore Neurological Institute. “We encourage people to practice good habits designed to improve sleep quality and consistency, and turning your phone off or leaving it another room is one of those habits.”
And what about grabbing your phone first thing in the morning when you are barely awake? Turns out, that’s not good for you either. When the brain switches from a deep sleep state to first waking there is a transition from delta waves to theta waves that are found in the time between full wakefulness and sleep.
Theta waves are often associated with increased creativity and time to tap into the subconscious mind. Checking your phone as soon as you wake triggers the brain to its wide awake state, bypassing the more relaxed state. And seeing a pile of unanswered emails first thing in the morning can also trigger a sense of stress or distress rather than beginning the day with a sense of calm.
“Focusing on your breath or meditation for even a few minutes before you pick up your phone is generally a much healthier way to start the day,” said Dr. Musleh. “Yes, we all feel the need to stay on top of our email or check the news, but beginning the day with dedicated time for yourself or your family can pay dividends later in productivity.”
Exercising in the morning, setting an intention for the day, having a conversation with someone you love can decrease stress and help you focus, while checking your phone can have the opposite effect, cautions Dr. Musleh.
The multidisciplinary NorthShore Sleep Center offers state-of-the-art, comprehensive care for patients suffering from any of a variety of sleep disorders. These may include sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, night terrors, snoring, insomnia and narcolepsy. Click the link or call 847.663.8200 to schedule an appointment with a sleep expert.