Sleep, Health and Excellence
A demon is defined as an agent of harm often disguised as something benign. The thought that something dangerous might be hiding in a child's room is a creepy and horrifying thought. Yet 50 % of teenagers own smart phones. And an increasing number bring those devices to bed. This has become hidden in our culture as it is increasingly accepted as normal behavior.
We are only now learning the dangers and addictive nature of smart phones. But one thing we do know is that 80% of teenagers are not getting the amount of sleep required to support them in normal/healthy growth and development. Is it any wonder that 11% of American children are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and that the number is rising?
Orfeu M. Buxton, a neuroscientist and assistant professor in the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, said the phone in the bedroom could set off what he called “threat vigilance,” which is a type of anxiety that keeps you awake. “This means that you’re never off, you’re always watchful, which is a hallmark of insomnia,” he said.
In parenting we often say "pick your battles". This simply means that whenever we are tempted to control a child's behavior we need to assess the level of importance related to that control. If we try to control too much we invite resistance. This potential battle over "smart phones in the bedroom during sleep-time" is a battle worth waging. Smart phones in the bedroom during sleep-time sabotage a child's sleep in a manner that they can't possibly realize. It is almost impossible for a person to become aware of sleep fragmentation. These interruptions in sleep happen during sleep which is a period of limited awareness. In fact in overnight sleep studies we often see a person with sleep apnea have hundreds of arousals out of sleep with absolutely no reported awareness of those arousals. A child who has fragmented sleep due to the presence of a smart phone in the bedroom will have no awareness of the constant state of "threat vigilance" and the resulting "fragmented sleep". That's why parents need to be firm and unconditional when refusing to allow smart phones in the bedroom.
The positive take-away from this discussion is that by keeping smart phones out of your children's bedroom you can improve the quality of your child's sleep which will better support all aspects of her physical, emotional and cognitive health. Banning the smart phone demon from the bedroom can singlehandedly improve, your child's health, learning, moods and resulting behavior.
Smart-phones Sabotage Children's Sleep
A recent analysis from an international human resource company revealed that of the top 15 drivers of poor employee productivity the number one culprit is insufficient sleep.
The remaining top 14 drivers of lost productivity were: depression; fatigue; back/neck pain; anxiety; hypertension; other emotional disorders; arthritis; obesity; chronic pain; headache; irritable bowel; high cholesterol; heart disease; and allergies. Amazingly, eight of these fourteen other conditions (anxiety and depression, chronic pain, headaches, fatigue, heart disease, emotional disorders and obesity) are strongly linked to insufficient sleep and other sleep disorders.
It has become increasingly clear that wellness initiatives need to address the problem of insufficient sleep. Improving sleep is the ultimate win-win. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recently estimated that employee fatigue from insufficient sleep costs 63.2 billion dollars in yearly lost productivity to American businesses. The cost of employee errors and accidents adds another 30 billion dollars in losses.
It’s astounding that it has taken us so long to wake up to the impact of sleep on health and productivity. Part of the reason for this long delayed “discovery” is the pervasiveness of the problem. The most recent National Sleep Foundation survey found that 60% of Americans report struggling with their sleep nearly every night. Poor and inadequate sleep has quietly become the “new normal”.
In a 1961 National Sleep Foundation survey respondents were asked to estimate their average amount of nightly sleep. In that survey 2% of respondents estimated that they averaged 6 or fewer hours of sleep per night. In 2011, 28% of respondents estimated their average night’s sleep to be 6 hours or less: a mind-boggling fourteen fold increase.
During this same time period we have become more focused on maximizing productivity in our work and in our personal lives. In the search for solutions many of us have ironically, and mistakenly, decided that sleeping less might be the answer. Somehow sleep has fallen into disfavor. We seem to think of a full night’s sleep as lazy or wasteful. There are also technical and social trends that have eroded the quality of our sleep from the increase in artificial light to the preponderance of gadgets and devices that mesmerize and distract us.
Fortunately science and common sense are helping us to unravel this paradox. Increasingly we notice on a personal level that we are craving more sleep. The new normal of tired, foggy and forgetful just isn’t very satisfying. And in the field of medicine we are documenting the paramount importance of sleep. Medicine is discovering the connections between insufficient sleep and the rise in conditions like obesity, anxiety, heart disease and depression.
The advocacy of cutting edge wellness companies and progressive business leaders for sleep improvement is a win-win for corporate productivity and personal health.
At Clear Mind Systems we have developed strategic sleep improvement programs for business that can address the needs of companies with a few employees to companies with thousands of employees in multiple sites. We understand that sleep is the foundation that supports physical, emotional and cognitive health. When we strengthen that foundation every aspect of health and productivity are improved.
Rick Clerici C.Ht. certified hypnotherapist and certified clinical sleep educator is the director at Clear Mind Systems. Rick blends strategies and insights from his hypnotic work with sleep education and improvement in his corporate wellness work.
In my therapeutic work I often meet people who seem to live entirely in some other world. It sounds weird to say that but that's how it seems. They're world at first seems normal. They come to therapy for a reason and they have goals. The goals often involve getting out of some kind of pain, depression or anxiety.
They do many of the things that we all do like using the internet, watching tv, playing video games, texting etc. but they seem to do these things more than the average person. They even glance at their phone or pda while in a therapy session. Some of these people find it necessary to respond to a text while they're speaking to me. They report playing a lot of video games and watching a lot of television.
It almost seems as though they're someplace else other than in the room with me. I often notice what seems to me to be a very short attention span and a tendency to dismiss the immediate environment. It's as though their attention or awareness is only partially present.
I'm beginning to believe that this constant connection to media and messaging is serving to mask high levels of stress. We all utilize distraction as a coping mechanism. It's a legitimate way to keep from obsessing on daily concerns, when we do it minimally. The problem arises when a person is intentionally or unintentionally distracting from and avoiding feelings and body sensations. Those fleeting moments when we could become aware of our stress levels, become filled with or blocked by a constant flow of communication and media information. Stresses build in the body/mind but we are completely unaware of the rising stress level. It's like putting a piece of masking tape over the gas gauge in your car. At some point you'll run out of gas but be unaware of that approaching inevitability and the opportunity for simply filling the tank.
I often find myself helping a client gradually withdraw from media as though it were a drug and drug addiction. It often only takes a reduction in the amount of media exposure to help a person come back to this world, their feelings and inner resources. To manage stress we have to be able to be aware of it.
To live a healthy life we all need to find a balance with food, exercise, sleep and media.
If you see yourself in this story, gradually reduce your use of media and notice how your own awareness helps you to manage stress and relax.
On Faceook there is a genuine display of honest expression. This kind of day to day expression unlocks that secret guarded place in the human psyche. It helps people to find self expression and self acceptance. And expression and self acceptance are keys to good health. Whatever we express we, at least to some degree, release. Rather than allowing feelings and thoughts to fester and ferment we express them in the virtual community. We may end up having to defend our expressions or apologize for our thoughtlessness but at least we have some impact in the world. It is these honest expressions and the feedback that we get that gives us a sense of community. And the experience of community in this electronic age has, up until now, been rare. We have often settled for feeling a kinship with others by consuming popular products, a community of consumers. Facebook provides a huge bathroom wall or bulletin board on which we find ourselves through expression and sharing. When we allow ourselves to be affected by the expressions of others we lose that sense of isolation and grow.
I would say try it. Let yourself become part of a community of people who engage in sharing ideas, events, birthdays, life passages, grief and joy. I think you'll find yourself feeling healthier and happier.
In our practice we often have people call who want to improve their sleep. But more often during the course of working on seemingly unrelated issues I discover that a client has insufficient sleep. Or the client mentions in an offhanded way that they have terrible sleep and have suffered from that condition for years.
The truth is that sleep in America is getting worse and worse. And Americans are accepting this as the "new normal" like the price of gas or the state of the economy. We have become a culture of sleepy, driven and over stimulated people. We find technology addicting and have a difficult time setting any limits on TV, gaming, texting and internet use.
My message is "please don't give up on sleep". Sleep is vitally important. Insufficient sleep is very much a part of the obesity, diabetes, learning and attention difficulties, anxiety and depression epidemics. In fact there are very clear and direct connections between insufficient sleep and all these conditions.
The great majority of sleep problems are various levels of insomnia and sleep deprivation. Some 50% of Americans have insomnia. A growing percentage suffer from sleep apnea and other forms of sleep disordered breathing.
These conditions are very treatable. Most insomnia can be relieved with simple changes in behavior and attitude. For many this is a short process involving weeks of work and change. For some with chronic long-standing insomnia the work may take longer. But it is always worth the time and effort. There are many treatments for sleep apnea and sleep disordered breathing.
Don't let poor sleep become your new normal. Treating sleep disorders and improving sleep quality can add years of life, good energy, better health, mood and memory.