When Sleep Calls, Give Your Mind and Body a Rest

By Jon Haslam, Courier & Press, 1/13/15 —

When I was teen, I remember turning on my television at night and cranking the volume down to a quiet hum. I prayed that my parents wouldn’t be able to hear the bass riff that kicked off an episode of “Seinfeld” and, to be honest, I usually got away with it. It seemed like every night I would fall asleep to the warm glow of my TV/VCR combo.

That nasty habit led to a struggling student who could barely keep his eyes open during class and an unhealthy consumption of caffeinated beverages early in the morning.

In a culture that has shifted from late-night sitcoms to late-night texting, adults and teens alike are encountering a completely new wave of potential health concerns. For most of us, including myself, our phone is not just a phone but it is also our GPS, alarm clock, calendar, email, social network, camera, fantasy football team and gaming device (somebody has to make sure those birds stay angry, right?). For those of us who have smartphones, defining “cellphone use” as simply making a call or composing a text barely scratches the surface.

Recent studies have shown there may be a correlation between late-night cellphone use and mental health problems. Our constant desire to remain plugged-in may not only affect our sleep patterns but also our overall well-being. This notion of always being “on call” raises our anxiety levels and can alter melatonin levels that normally aid a good night’s rest.

While televisions have seemingly done this for years, the danger of a cellphone rests upon the ability to communicate with others. We now have the ability to remain plugged-in all night, and even more frightening, we have the ability to communicate with others who have that same “privilege.”

This wave of late-night communication engages the brain during typical hours of rest and can delay our internal cycle. Although we may still sleep a few hours during the night, our bodies still need more rest than we can genuinely offer.

If you go to bed every night at 10 p.m., your body will adapt to those settings. However, if you go to bed at 10 p.m. and look at your phone for an hour, your body won’t signal for sleep until 11 p.m. Worse yet, if you wake up to check your phone in the middle of the night, your brain begins engaging in concentration, resetting the sleep cycle entirely.

Teens and adults alike should try going unplugged, if only for a night. Dust off those old alarm clocks (or buy one if you have to) and put them to use. With the promise of better health and more energy throughout the day, why wouldn’t we all turn our phones off at night? Take a moment for yourself and enjoy not being “on call.” We have one shot at a good night’s rest and close to 16 hours of daylight to look at our phones.