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Too much screen time found to disrupt sleep cycles

Living in today’s era, people are increasingly absorbed in screen time – whether with smartphones, tablets or television – and this kind of digital lifestyle can often disrupt sleep.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A new study has found that prolonged exposure to artificial light late into the night can cause certain cells in the eye to reset the body’s internal clock, contributing to sleep disruption and possibly resulting in a host of health issues. The research, published in the journal Cell Reports, was conducted by scientists from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, USA.

The innermost layer in the eye’s retina contains a tiny subpopulation of light-sensitive cells that process levels of ambient light to supply signals for biological mechanisms. When those cells are exposed to ongoing light, a protein called melanopsin continually regenerates within them, signalling levels of ambient light directly to the brain to regulate consciousness, sleep and alertness. Melanopsin plays a pivotal role in synchronizing the body’s internal clock after 10 minutes of illumination and, under bright light, it suppresses the hormone melatonin that is responsible for regulating sleep. According to the Salk researchers, melanopsin cells respond as long as the light lasts, which is critical as the circadian rhythm – the biological process behind the human body’s natural sleep and wake cycles – are designed to respond only to prolonged illumination.

Living in today’s era, people are increasingly absorbed in screen time – whether with smartphones, tablets or television – and this kind of digital lifestyle can  often disrupt sleep, according to Julie Mallon, a UAE-based Certified Sleep Consultant Parental Educator with Nurture to Sleep.

“ The inability to fall and stay asleep could stem from a short-term issue or be the result of a lifetime of poor sleep habits. Ultimately, missing out on sleep leaves you feeling exhausted, irritable, and generally unable to function during the day and over time, it can put you at risk for health issues like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes,” Julie said. “Whether it’s checking emails, a video game, updating your social media channels, or watching TV, electronic devices keep us connected 24/7. The result is that we struggle from both falling asleep and sleeping well. The brain is overstimulated — the exact opposite of what should be happening before we sleep. As our brain get stressed, our body can go into a ‘fight or flight’ response, and as a result, we release a stress hormone, creating a situation that is not at all conducive to sleep.”

Julie, who will be among the key speakers at the upcoming Sleep Expo Middle East, underscored that the best way to get quality and sound sleep is to turn off devices, especially when in the bedroom. 

Sleep Expo Middle East, the first-of-its-kind in the region, is set to host sleep experts and innovators to discuss and display the latest innovations in the sleep technology space from April 11 to 13, 2019 at the Dubai Festival City Arena. 

“Unwind before bed time. Have a transition period, about 15 to 30 minutes, of technology-free time before you go into your bedroom for sleep. Setting your phone perhaps 30 minutes before bed will help keep your bedtime constant and remind you to switch off,” Julie added.

Sleep Expo ME’s three-day trade exhibit is the perfect platform to see the latest sleep technologies and solutions as it brings together the leading stakeholders of the Sleeping Technology industry under one roof. In addition to an expansive product display and live demonstrations, the Expo is also designed as a venue for companies to know more about business opportunities in the Middle East sleep industry.

The conference is a two-day event (April 11 for B2B and April 13 for B2C) designed to engage attendees in  thought-provoking keynotes and general sessions, as well as exciting and interactive panel discussions. Moreover, the event will feature a  Sleep Care Zone, a dedicated area for guests to try services that will aid them in better sleep. Among the most interesting features of the zone are free Sleep Consultations with experts from top-notch brands Nurture to Sleep and London Sleep Centre, Yoga-Nidra Classes, Foot Massages, and more.