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Put Your Phone Down & Sleep More!

Robert Cuellar - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

How many of us are so tied to our digital devices that we reach for them 5 minutes after we wake up?! We sit and stare at our screen all day at work, then do the same thing when we get home. We no longer have family meal time where we all just eat and chat about our day. Many of us are checking our email, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram. Have we forgotten how to have a conversation with our family and friends? What rules do you have about devices at the dinner table? Do you even still sit together for a family meal?

In a compelling interview with three experts in the field, we learned what to do to get more sleep and increase our attention span. Okay, true confessions…how many of you reached for your phone while reading this?

Now some background: I recently attended an event presented by Zócalo Public Square/UCLA where our digital device addiction was discussed in great detail by UCLA Chancellor and Biobehavioral Scientist, Gene Block, Patricia Greenfield, Director of the UCLA Children’s Digital Media Center and Health Economist and Milken Institute Fellow, Anusuya Chatterjee.

Here are some key Take Aways

Inability to Pick Up Non-Verbal Cues

While technology has enhanced our lives and made things much easier, it has also impacted us in negative ways. Patricia Greenfield pointed out that most bonding is done face to face and the least bonding is through text. In fact, young people who grew up with all of these devices are less able to pick up verbal cues because they are using text and email as ways to communicate.

Affects on Sleep

Chancellor Block mentioned that 50 years ago, we used to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night and now, it’s much less for many people. He pointed out that light at night reduced melatonin levels and causes us to sleep less. He added that children are not sleeping enough largely because light at night. Light from computer, televisions and digital devices can affect our eyes and may lead to musculoskeletal diseases spine problems.

It’s a well-known fact that most people need 7-9 hours of sleep. Dr. Block said, “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.” Yet many people brag about how little sleep they need. Dr. Block said we should all make it a goal to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Because many of us sit at our computers all day, we have a tendency to do more snacking, which leads to weight gain, which can lead to even more health risks, such as Diabetes and High Blood Pressure.
Some companies have encouraged employees to have standing desk. But this might not be the answer. If you’re used to sitting for a long time, your body might not be able to take it. Anusuya Chatterjee recommends getting up every hour and walking around or just standing up every now and then. You may get some funny looks from co-workers…but who cares!

Decreased Attention Span

Anusya Chatterjee said that 2 out of 5 people in a recent study check their smartphone 5 minutes after waking. In addition, 50% of smartphone users check their mobile device 25 times a day! 4% of people check 200 times!
Many of us think we can multitask. We often sit in meetings and sneak a peek at our phone or try to discreetly respond to a text or email. But this so-called multitasking actually reduces our comprehension. Long term, Dr. Block pointed out that we could be losing our ability to concentrate on things like reading and understanding complex material.

Can’t Unplug

It used to be that our cars were somewhat of a sanctuary, if we were driving alone. Now we feel compelled to make and receive calls in our car. We even text illegally! Many workers check their emails during vacation, either because they can’t unplug, or they feel they can’t because their employer expects it. Our vacations have also been taken over by technology.

The panel recommended setting boundaries and expectations for when you will answer email.

Children and Technology

Patricia Greenfield recommends giving kids alternatives to screen time, like playing outside. Children model our behaviors, so try to set a good example by not being so dependent on your digital devise.


Can you stay off your digital device for 1 day?
Please give us your thoughts on the subject. We’d love to hear from you.

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