Did you know we can only go 36 hours without sleep before it starts to have drastic effects on our functionality as a human? Sleep is very important for us, yet something that we often neglect.
We need sleep
When we sleep our brain and our body do amazing things.
Our brains process the day that we’ve just had. it organises our memories and shuffle things around from short-term to long-term based on what we might need.
During sleep our body doesn’t need to function at the same level as when we’re awake because we are resting. Therefore, it can help to repair any damage done. When we sleep we can recover from illnesses and other ailments quicker than trying to stay awake.
If we don't sleep...
We need a certain amount of sleep each night for us to be at our best for the day ahead. This changes with age:
If we don’t get enough sleep then it can have a bad effect on how we perceive ourselves and the world around us.
A lack of sleep does not allow our brain to regulate moods efficiently. The knock-on effect of this is that we can easily find ourselves becoming depressed quicker and easier.
There have been studies carried out on adults and kids that show a lack of sleep leads to weight gain. When we sleep it balances or hormones that help us feel hungry and full.
There could easily be a domino effect because obesity can also cause increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and strokes. All of which is linked to our sleep!
As humans we are built with natural rhythms. Often we are good at enforcing that on kids because we see the importance of it. When we get to adulthood we lose this because we can do whatever we want. Whilst we can do anything we want it doesn’t mean that everything is good for us. So think about the sleep rhythms you keep. If you feel they might not be the best, we can always change our rhythm.
This is one of those things that are often given to kids but we don’t do as an adult. But in making a bedtime routine it helps our brain to adjust so it knows we are getting ready for bed. Whatever it looks like for you think about what you do before you go to bed.
It’s recommended that any shows/movies we’re watching we finish at least 30mins before we go to bed. That gives our brain the chance to absorb what we’ve been watching without it keeping us awake.
Not all screen use is bad and we use them for so much, it’s what we use them for. If we’re using it to read or play a game that activates our brain but doesn’t stimulate us visually then that’s ok. For example, it’s ok to read a book on an e-reader or do a crossword but it’s not great to be scrolling through social media or playing other games that have lots of visual effects.
Think about the drink you have or don’t have. Is your body ok with a coffee after dinner? Would a glass of warm milk help?
Eating a large meal before going to bed might not be helpful either due to the way our body breaks down what’s in the food. Try experimenting with dinner at lunch time and then something light in the evening if that fits with how life operates.
There are so many benefits to doing a bit of exercise (another topic for another day) and sleep is one of them. It doesn’t have to be much and whatever ability we have most of us can manage something. But doing something helps to use up the energy in our bodies so that we are more naturally and physically tired when it comes to the end of the day.
With all that said I’m off to bed.
How To Do It?
Unplug, switch off, put away all your gadgets! (Not just on airplane mode…) And yes it’s all of them! It’s 24hrs from sundown to sundown. We can manage that right?!
Engage with what’s going on around you. Spend some time with family and friends. Go outside and take part in an activity. Explore your local area and see what’s out there. I’m sure there are lots of things you can be doing. (Whilst you have the internet do a little research if you have to!)
Why Do It?
There is lots of research showing us the amount of time we use screens. About 3 in every 10 adults in the US say they are constantly online. Kids are spending between 4-6 hours a day looking at screens and teens can be using tech for up to 9 hours a day!
When it’s light outside our bodies react to this making us more alert. So when it gets dark outside our bodies react to that too. We naturally become more sleepy. But we are keeping ourselves awake longer with our manmade lights and our devices. Long-time phone use has been linked to mental disturbances that can lead to the development of anxiety and depression.
The main impact is our eyes. There’s the glare from a screen. The different angles that the screen might be. Our eyes have to work harder in order to look at a screen in contrast to a printed page.
Also our neck and shoulders get effected too. The way we sit when using screens can have a big impact on us. There is such a thing now called Computer Vision Syndrome so we need to take it seriously!
And then there’s the hazard of looking down at our phones and walking into something! Ouch!
I’ve walked into a room where everyone was playing a board game – on their screens – with everyone in the room! Relationships: friend-to-friend, parent-to-kid, partner-to-partner, need more than communication through a device.
It’s great to be able to communicate all around the world. It’s great to be able to communicate with those who are around us too.
Use this an opportunity to revise how you use your tech. It’s useful for business and communicating and connections. But let’s put practices in place to help keep it in balance.
Here’s a few of my suggestions:
Don’t bring your phone to the table. We have a rule that no phones are allowed at the table during mealtimes. These are family times.
I’ve heard stories of friends going out for dinner. They put their phones in a box in the middle of the table and the first person to get theirs out has to pay. I’ve heard of restaurants do similar incentives if you can leave your phone alone for the meal.
Go for a walk and leave your phone behind. Make the most of the environment around you. Hear what’s going on whether it’s traffic or birds or construction or the wind in the trees.
If it’s possible leave your phone out of your room.
That might be a step too far. Phones often have the capability of being able to set up routines so you can turn the internet off at a certain time or disable apps when it might be distracting. Make the most of these.
Basically what we need to practice is how we can make the best use of these wonderful gadgets we have around us. Tech is there to help us. So let’s make sure that we are using it in a healthy way.
If you’d like to talk about how to manage your tech or would like counselling about anything else then please get in contact with us here.
Counsellor and Psychotherapist