Sleep and Technology

Ahhhhh – sleep – something so many people desire more of or an improved quality nights rest. All over the western world, people are suffering from chronic sleep deficiency.

In terms of brain function and productivity sleep is really important. A lack of quality sleep lowers a person’s focus, impedes decision making and increases mood swings. And that is just the start! Ask any parent who has a colicky baby that has kept them up for several nights in a row, to choose from two simple choices and it feels like a scholarship exam!

Eric Edmeades, founder of Wildfit, teaches about the 8 basic needs of humans. The first 3 (in order of importance for the body & brain) are good quality air, natural water for hydration and sleep. Sleep at the number three position might have surprised you as most people predict food to be third on the list – it’s actually number six!

Your brain and body perform amazing feats while you sleep. These include:

  • physical repair
  • burning off fat from the day’s activities
  • fighting inflammation, infection and trauma
  • digestion
  • sorting of the day’s memories
  • creation of long-term memories
  • memory enhancement
  • memory integration
  • problem solving
  • ridding toxic waste
  • cell repair
  • energy is recharged (almost like a battery)

The brain works on approximate 90 mins cycles (circadian rhythms) throughout the day and night. At night, as an adult, it is recommended to get 5 full cycles of sleep, while teenagers may require 6-7 cycles for great body and brain function. This may involve going to bed earlier to fit all these cycles in. Dr Greg Wells and Dr Daniel Amen, both prolific brain researchers, talk about the first three cycles being when the brain processes the learning from the day, memory enhancement and memory integrations. The last two cycles are when creativity and problem solving happens. Have you ever woken up with clarity about a troubling problem? Your brain was working on it while you were asleep.

There are many reasons people may not be getting enough sleep and one key factor is increased use of technology and phones. Here are 3 tips, in relation to technology use, to achieving a better night’s sleep.

Tip 1: No technology in the bedroom

To ensure a great night sleep remove all technology from your bedroom. Your bedroom should be a relaxation zone, a time for the brain to unwind, calm and switch off. The last thing your brain needs is more input or the suggestion of more information. Your brain spends its day consuming information, making decisions, creating and thinking and it needs time to recharge. Remove the TV, computers, laptops and phones from the bedroom to create a calm and nurturing space.

Tip 2: Turn your phone/technology off 30 mins before sleep

Ideally two hours would be better, however the National Foundation for Sleep suggests starting with 30 minutes. The key reason for this is because phone, TV and computer manufacturers design these devices to emit a blue light. This blue light keeps your brain awake and alert. In fact, what the blue light actually does is restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycles or commonly known as your body clock (circadian rhythms.) When melatonin production is impeded it is harder to fall asleep and problematic to wake up.

Furthermore, checking emails, messages and posts before bed means you are not able to control the type of information coming into your brain. When you see a post, message, email you don’t like or agree with, your heart rate increases, you may get all worked up, start to worry, plan and process, which is the exact opposite of what you want before sleep. Reading a relaxing book, on the other hand, means you have better management of what you are feeding your brain before sleep. You might also take a bath, practice light yoga, write or journal your daily gratitude or listen to some soothing music before bed.

Tip 3: Leave your phone in another room at night

I know! Being without your phone feels like your arm has been severed from your body! And in all honesty – how often do you get a call during the night? Just the worry that you might get that urgent call in the night can lead to a lack of deep sleep. Or maybe you are a victim of FOMO – the fear of missing out? If leaving your phone in another room is a major challenge, turn it on to do-not-disturb or silent mode. At bare minimum leave it over the other side of the room so you are not tempted to reach for it in the night. Most smart phones have an option when on silent or do-not-disturb mode, that certain numbers can come through. Being woken in the night by an alert, a bright light, or call not only interrupts your sleep cycles and the inhibits melanin production, it also makes it more challenging to get back into a deep sleep.

If you use your phone as an alarm for as little as $7 from Kmart or less than $1 from AliExprees (and free shipping! at the time of writing this) you can purchase a traditional alarm clock. This will give you more peace of mind and increase the quality of your sleep and therefore your brain and body function. A great bargain!

Give these tips a go for 21 days. It may be hard at first and if you persist you are likely to reap the rewards in many different areas of your life.


Want more tips for a great night’s sleep? Download your FREE Sleep infographic here

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Published on Thursday, March 4th, 2021, under Health & Wellbeing, Technology and the brain

Karen Tui Boyes is a champion for Life Long Learning across nations, industries and organisations. Winner of the NZ Educator of the Year 2017 and 2014 and the NZ Speaker of the Year award in 2013 & 2019, Karen is a sought after speaker who continually gets rave reviews from audiences around the world. Her dynamic style and highly informative content—which turns the latest educational research into easy-to-implement strategies and techniques — sets her apart from others in her field.

2 Responses to “Sleep and Technology”

  1. An excellent article Karen. I hope it’s OK to share?

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