Many of us can’t remember the days before social media when we had idle time while waiting at a stop light or walking through the street without having a text conversation. Social media has done a lot of good in society and I, for one, am appreciative of the exchange of ideas, platform for my business and ability to see pictures of friends and family who live far away. That said, this technology has come with added consequences: lack of personal interaction (versus the perceived socialization we think we’re getting), our inability to be present and a lesser known evil, poor sleep quality.
We’ve all been there – at the end of the day when we just can’t pick up another toy or attend to another person’s needs, we find ourselves checking out of reality and into the digital abyss. Often times our duties end so late that we are scrolling through Facebook in bed or shortly before going to sleep. I too have fallen victim to this digital addiction of Instagram and Facebook or even email for that matter. There have been times when I’ve spent 30 plus minutes looking at pictures of people’s families I was never really all that friendly with! Little did I realize that in addition to wasting time where I could have been doing something more rewarding, I was also unknowingly absorbing large amounts of blue light that was messing with my circadian rhythm and withdrawing from my already overdrawn sleep bank.
Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is regulated by your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. When it’s dark out, your eyes send a signal to your brain to produce melatonin to make you sleepy, but when your eyes are taking in the blue light of your cellphone, iPad or television (which is equivalent to the light of 12 noon), it tells your brain — oh hey, gotta get that second wind now because we’re only half way through the day. In doing this, it messes with your circadian rhythm and therefore the quality of your sleep (leading to a whole host of issues from obesity to depression). Many of us are already being woken up multiple times a night by our children, we cannot afford to have the few hours of sleep we get be of poor quality!
What’s the solution to this sleep robbing conundrum? There are two options: wearing blue light blocking glasses or a far more sexy and effective solution, a digital curfew. One or two hours before bed (no later than 9pm), turn off all of your mobile devices. Take this time to decompress – read a book or a magazine, light a candle or do a short meditation. The goal is to unplug and wind down allowing your body to send a message to your brain that it’s night time so cue the sleep hormones! An analogy I give my clients is to imagine your body is a computer with 50 windows open – if you try to shut down without closing those windows it sends your computer into the rainbow circle of death and takes far longer than if you were to close down each window and then shutdown. Our brains work very similarly. And by the way, the same goes for our kids.
I suggest leaving your phone outside the bedroom. You can even buy a little bed for it à la Arianna Huffington or if you use your cellphone as an alarm clock, simply put it in airplane mode. Research indicates EMF exposure from Wi-Fi on your cellphone can also significantly affect your sleep. By turning it off, you kill two birds with one cellphone.
We’d all kill for more sleep, but are we willing to kill off our apps for the sake of better sleep? Sorry Mark Zuckerberg, but I’m choosing the zzzz.
Jennifer Khalaf is a Certified Holistic Health and Integrative Nutrition Coach (IIN) working with mothers and families to improve their health in a simple and accessible way. Jennifer specializes in helping moms reclaim their health and seriously increase their joy factor through nutrition and self-care. She offers one-on-one coaching and provides pantry makeovers and cooking demos for families in the NYC area. Jennifer also serves on the board of Tournesol Kids, a non-profit empowering children to lead healthy and resilient lives. Jennifer lives in Manhattan with her husband and two young children who are constantly keeping her on her toes. For more information, follow her on Facebook and Instagram. Learn more about Jen’s services at Thrive Wellness, or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free consultation.