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Losing Sleep Over Social Media?

by Sarah on April 9, 2011

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A few weeks ago I wrote about how important it is for us to step away from the blue screen in order to really think.

In our whirlwind dance with technology, we’re losing the ability to ponder, mull, consider.  We’re losing our revelations and inspirations.  And with these casualties goes our creativity.

We’re losing a lot with our addiction to the blue screen.

But one thing you may not have realized you’re losing is . . .

Sleep

Very few of us can vouch for having a good night’s sleep.

In a recent survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, two-thirds of Americans (ages 13-64) reported not getting enough sleep during the week. More than half (60%) reported that they experience some kind of sleep problem every night.

Sleep deprivation is no joke.

·    Sleep is when your immune system is most active.
·    It’s when your body produces human growth hormone, essential for a healthy metabolism and tissue repair.
·    Sleep is when not only are memories solidified but also organized so that your creativity and reasoning can flourish.

Too little sleep is associated with

·    An increase in risk for accidents and injury.
·    An increase in stress hormone release like cortisol.
·    An increase risk for heart disease, diabetes and the common cold and flu.
·    An increased waistline since sleep deprivation is also linked to obesity.
·    An increase risk for chronic pain.
·    An increase in relationship problems.
·    An increased risk for depression.

When you don’t have enough sleep, you suffer. Your relationships suffer. Your work suffers.  Losing sleep is not about being disciplined and hard-working.  It’s not that. It’s just not smart.

That being said, our “smart” phones and other screens are making this problem worse.

In this same poll, the National Sleep Foundation found that almost everyone surveyed – 95% – used some form of electronic device in the hour before going to bed.

TV, computer, video game, smartphone, laptop, etc.

Now here’s where we get down to the nitty gritty . . .

In this survey, most of the older generations (67% 46-64 y.o. baby boomers and 63% generation 30-45 y.o. Xers) watched TV in the hour before bed.  About half of the younger generations (50% 13-18 y.o. Z’ers and 49% 19-29 y.o.Y’ers).

And while TV watching isn’t the best with it’s blue glow late at night, depending on what you’re watching, it doesn’t necessarily get your mind as engaged.  It’s more passive.

However, about 6 in 10 of the people surveyed say that they use their laptop within that hour before bed a few nights a week.  And more than half of the two younger generations say that they surf the Internet before bed.

This is dangerous stuff for those who need sleep.

When you’re online, you’re mind is engaged at a whole other level.  It’s nowhere near the same experience as passively watching TV.

Your mind is buzzing. You’re taking action. You’re interacting with people. Or making decisions about things to do and buy.

These devices engage our brains differently.  We’re awake, alert, ready for action.

And that lingers into dreamland – or shall I say, that frustrating state of not quite reaching dreamland. But lying in bed watching the clock.

It gets worse, too. One in ten of the youngest group (13-18 y.o.) say that their sleep is interrupted every night or almost every night by a phone call, text message or email.  One in five of the two younger groups (13-29 y.o.) say this happens at least a few nights a week.

Social media is tearing into our body’s essential time for regeneration and growth.  And even worse,  social media combined with sleep deprivation produce a synergy that makes sleep deprivation even worse.

Because social media has its own negative side to it :

·   Research  shows a link between too much internet time and depression. While its still unclear whether people with depression get caught up in the virtual world or visa versa, the connection is irrefutable.  One town in Wales has started investigating whether a spate of teen suicides is linked to online social networking activities.

·    And social media has been linked in several studies to addictive behavior. When researchers took away access to Facebook, MySpace and other social media sites from teenagers and young college students, they saw brain activity patterns and symptoms similar to heroin addicts taken off of their favorite drug!

In fact in one study, students from Lebanon to Uganda to Hong Kong to the UK all acknowledged how addicted they felt to their mobile devices.

I have been doing much more social media lately – Tweeting a lot and engaging on Facebook more.  It’s part of my work to reach more people with the ideas in Your Healthy Home Business and Fit Family Together.

And certainly the internet and social media specifically offers a way to connect with people who can enrich your life.

But I also see the lure and danger here.  So much is changing each minute.  Every few minutes someone real might be ready to engage with you.

In a world where families are spending less time together, all of us are aching for more human companionship. Other studies have found that Americans are lonelier than ever. A 2004 survey found that 1 in 4 Americans could not name one person they consider a friend. And the average person surveyed could only name 2 friends whereas 10 years ago they participants on average named 3 close friends.

As one reporter on this survey noted, “in 20 years, we collectively lost a friend, and gained a billion Facebook pals.”

Social media is a tool and a connector that has a purpose. But like most tools it has its risks as well. It’s taking us away from our real life – our real challenges, our real loves, our real feelings and concerns. Social media makes it so easy to forge connections that palliate that craving for relationship we’re not meeting in our real lives.

And it’s taking us away from our sleep that is essential for being able to take on the world and all its complexities.

Sleep may seem like a mundane topic.  But remember, it’s an essential ingredient for solid relationships, dealing with conflict, not letting grumpiness take over.  It helps us reason, manage our emotions, find solutions.  It helps us succeed in all areas of our life, making us feel better about ourselves and our future.

So here’s what I suggest.

1.    Keep using social media and reap the benefits of it.  But understand its lure.

2.    Discipline yourself to use it as a tool.  And use it judiciously as part of your social networking.

3.    Then, turn it off.  And especially, turn it off at least an hour before you go to bed.  Turn off your phone. Turn off your computer.  If you want to watch a little TV, that’s okay. Just don’t watch the A-Team movie or the O’Reilly Factor too late.

4.    Take that hour to reflect on your day.  Consider where you are and what you’re grateful for.  Make a few notes in a notebook (not computer) if you need to of things you want to wrestle with in the morning. (Hint: This is why I also keep my calendar offline).

5.    Keep your smartphone and laptop out of your bedroom.  Or if your bedroom is your home office, at least shut them down. And even drape a cloth over them so that their lights won’t be dancing around all night.

Snuggle with your spouse. Look in on your dreaming children. Look at the stars for few moments and breathe.

This simple discipline alone may give you the sweet dreams you’ve been yearning for.

And you’ll have more energy to take on the challenges of tomorrow as well as savor the sweet surprises and gifts it brings as well.

  • Jason

    Great advice – especially about keeping laptops (and smart phones) out of the bedroom.

  • admin

    Thanks for the comment, Jason. It’s hard enough to close the door on work when you work at home. Keeping these work tools out of the space where we get our rest in can make all the difference in our sanity and productivity.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing this link (via Twitter) with me. Good stuff.

    Although there are still nights that I am on my computer until minutes before bed (usually nights I am trying to meet a deadline and would pass out at the computer if I didn’t go to bed), I am getting better about shutting off my computer and smartphone before bed.

    You shared some great stats and info (thanks). I must say, however, that it saddened me to realize that Generation X (my generation) is now one of the “older” generations. Ouch! :-)

  • Sarah

    Glad you liked it, Amy.

    On the last point, take comfort that with age comes wisdom. One of the benefits of experience and perspective.

    Thanks for commenting,

    Sarah

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