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Have Smartphones Become Our New Bed Partners?

By Stacey Ross

No pun intended, but in doing a bit of research on the topic of sleeping with smartphones, I had an eye-opening experience: there is not only growing pressure to be available to peers and colleagues 24/7, but this particularly addictive habit is compromising the health and well-being of mobile phone owners everywhere.

Do you take your mobile phone into the bedroom? I myself have fallen asleep with my phone far more times than I can count, and it appears to be a particular problem among young phone users. A HuffPost/YouGov survey revealed that 63 percent of smart phone users aged 18 - 29 sleep with their cell phones, smartphones or tablets in the bed with them.

Studies tell the story

We sleep in cycles of 1½ - 2 hours, with brief moments of waking in between that normally go unnoticed. However, if we train our brains to take a late-night peak at our gadgets, we are doing ourselves a great disservice. A 2011 study at Stanford University tested the effect of a total of just 0.12 seconds of light exposure during the night. Participants were exposed to pulses of light lasting two milliseconds each for an hour. This delayed the body clock and the participants became more alert.

And because of the way we sleep, having a mobile device by the bed means that  if we do wake up in the night we're more likely to stay awake. And if  we're expecting a phone call, a text, a reply to an inquiry, etc., this is going to make us less prone to relaxation and a good night's sleep.

The absence of quality sleep can result in increased irritability, anxiety and depression, as well as reduced concentration, stifled creativity, depression and many more negative symptoms. The bright, high-quality screens on modern phones emit artificial light, which is considered a melatonin inhibitor and a cortisol stimulator, hence keeping us awake longer.

It’s also interesting to note that neuro-imaging has shown that back-and-forth texting floods the pleasure centers of the brain, the same area that lights up when using heroin or other addictive drugs! Not only might texting disrupt crucial sleep patterns but it might also bring on insomnia, headaches and other health issues. Who wants to be a smartphone junkie?

Bring back the teddy bear

Experts across the board suggest that mobile phone owners move their phones off the bedside table and out of bedrooms altogether. Sleep expert Dr. Neil Stanley says: "In order to get a good night's sleep, you have to feel safe and not worried about anything. By having your phone close by at night, you're subconsciously saying you wish to attend to that phone. The brain will monitor the situation and your sleep will be lighter and more likely to be disturbed."

Balance is always a key factor. It is up to parents to set smartphone guidelines that go beyond the topics of safety and privacy. Creating a healthful pattern of turning off our phones and storing them in another room is a vital move for the well-being of not only our children, but ourselves as well!

P.S. Thanks for calling ME on this, Mom. I'll call you after I catch up on my sleep! (Just kidding!)

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

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