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Regional Health Command-Pacific

Cellphone use is taking away your sleep

Regional Health Command-Pacific

Published: 12:47PM June 8th, 2017

Something that is used in everyday life is stealing minutes, even hours of sleep without the user’s knowledge.

Mobile smartphones 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 Dr. Darryl Salvador, an integrated behavioral health consultant and staff psychologist at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. “If someone was to get less than five hours of sleep for five days or more, they will have (the equivalent of) 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 the equivalent of a blood alcohol content level of 0.10, which creates a concern for safety, Salvador said.

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,” Salvador said. “Along with stimulation from games or Facebook 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 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,” he said.

Scientific data also shows that the blue light from smartphones inhibits the release of melatonin, disrupting normal cycles. 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.

Disabling all notifications on a phone and placing a phone on the opposite side of the room can help remove cellphone distractions at night. 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.

In addition, a medical provider or a behavioral health consultant who specializes in strategies and techniques to improve the duration and quality of sleep can always assist with making cognitive, behavioral or environmental changes, or if needed, in ordering a consult for a sleep study to be done.