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Image / Editorial

When The One Reason You’re Sleep Deprived Is Exactly What You Don’t Want It To Be


by Holly O'Neill
03rd Mar 2017
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Sleep

When you look into “Ways To Sleep More and Better and Faster”, you get a whole lot of experts offering a different variety of tips for the sleep deprived. Go to bed at the same time every night. Don’t sleep in at weekends. Don’t drink coffee; it can last in your system for upwards of eight hours. Meditate. Sleep in an organised space. Don’t eat before bed. You need eight hours’ sleep – a whole third of your life – to properly function. Don’t be ridiculous! Times are changing, that’s an old wives tale, six hours is grand – more than enough. Wait, don’t mind all the other stuff we mentioned about needing sleep for a certain amount of time – the amount of sleep you need is particular to you and your lifestyle.

I’d believe all of them, but there’s one key to a better night’s sleep that keeps cropping up, one suggestion that makes all the lists of “Ways to Sleep More and Better and Faster”…

SOMEHOW, GET AWAY FROM YOUR DEVICES

But of course! I know that you know this. It is the unavoidable truth. Everywhere I look into how to get a better night’s sleep, switching off digitally just crops up again and again.

How do people actually manage to implement this practice? I think the very last thing I actually do before I faceplant on my bed is stick my phone into the charger, but only after setting 65 alarms, watching all my friends’ Snapchat stories, writing into WhatsApp groups, maybe having a creep on Instagram, and then I could go and do all that again on a constant rotation until it’s time to go back to work.

If I’m really being honest, the minute my alarms are set and I’ve left my phone across the room (Tip:if you, too, need to set 65 alarms, one minute apart, to make sure you don’t sleep for 72 hours – leaving your phone across the room means you actually have to get up to turn them off; if you’re aware of a better alternative, please contact me, but not if your solution is “just set one alarm and wake up like a normal, functioning adult”, because clearly, you are a serial killer), when I do get under the duvet and switch the light off before I actually try and just sleep naturally, I turn on my iPad and drift off to a podcast or audiobook.

Another tip that keeps cropping up is that you should switch off one hour BEFORE bed. What the hell are you supposed to do for that hour? Household duties? I could only get through them with music. Make tomorrow’s lunch? If I’m expected to do that for an hour, I’ll have to YouTube a recipe. Watch a show? I stream them all on my laptop. Read a book? I DO THAT ON MY IPAD.

Here’s the science bit. Your screen suppresses melatonin production, which helps you feel sleepy, it makes it take longer to reach and spend time in the deeper stages of sleep and it messes with your “circadian rhythm”, which is how your body deals with darkness and lightness in a 24-hour period.

So apparently, Snapchat can wait until morning, but only if you can sleep with the knowledge that you will have missed all the Snapchat stories that were so scandalous they got deleted before you woke up.

Maybe I’m in deep need of a digital detox, but I know I just don’t have the willpower, and because of my job, it’s not feasible. In this day and age, I don’t know many people who would be able to realistically implement a digital detox into their life either.

Between dipping in and out of emails all day, keeping up with podcasts, my recent addiction to The New York Times crossword, checking my online banking to see if I can afford some online shopping (not to mention all the ways to see what your friends are up to on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook Stories and Instagram Stories)… I mean, does anyone remember when phones were for calling people? Even when I try and take ten minutes out of my day to meditate, I do it through a guided app – HeadSpace on my phone.

I actually wrote half this article on my phone on the DART and when I realised this, I paused to look up and did a quick headcount of the people in my carriage. Of the 19 people I could see around me, two of them were having a conversation with each other. One older lady was staring out the window, as she should be, because we were going past Salthill and Monkstown; the best view public transport ever had, and 16 of them were missing it because they were plugged in or glaring obediently at a smartphone. Then I saw a girl in a pink coat and remembered this pink coat I saw on ASOS a while back and checked my phone to see if it was still available. And it was, and I bought it.

We’ve got instantaneous worldwide communication, access to unlimited information and every seven-year-old playing Minecraft on an iPad has access to more information than the U.S. President had 25 years ago. Our phones can connect us to people and information everywhere, except from where we are now. What did we do before we had an apple on our phones? An apple with a bite mark taken out of it – the symbol of knowledge, immortality, temptation, and sin, and the first time humankind broke its alliance with God to become consumers. What did we do before our phones? Sleep more and better and faster, I guess.

Is this ability to have quick, easy, readily available access to all the information ever fabulous and wonderful? Yes!

Detrimental to my health, life, finances, sleep and at the cost of true life experiences? Maybe. Hang on there and I’ll Google it and see what the experts have to say…

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