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Smartphones: The next generation's alarm clock

What’s the last thing you do at night and the first thing you do when you wake up?

For many people, the answer was likely to set and then turn off the alarm clock. But for an ever-growing number of people, the alarm clock is also their smartphone.

Commonly, after we set or turn off the alarm app, we also quickly check Facebook, then see how many likes that Instagram post got and maybe even look at the Snapchat our buddy sent at two in the morning.

This process is probably very similar when we go to bed.

But what impact might staring into your phone’s screen right before bed and first thing in the morning have on the body and mind?

“The blue light emitted from your smartphone will suppress your melatonin,” said Dr. Ron Cridland from Kelowna Sleep Clinic.

“The affect of blue light on your melatonin can have a large impact on your biological clock and smartphones, computers, televisions all emit blue light.”

Humans are solar powered in many ways. The biological clock is set every morning by the morning light. When darkness falls, the body begins to release melatonin, which is a chemical the body produces to anticipate the onset of sleep.

This means while playing Candy Crush or swiping Tinder before bed, the body’s biological clock is being pushed farther and farther back into the night, which makes it even harder to get up in the morning.

All of this means less sleep, or at least a lower quality of sleep.

“Sleep is important for many reasons but mostly because it’s when your body and mind heal,” noted UBCO Psychology Professor Paul Gabias.

“Indicator muscles will test weak anytime the body is exposed to what it considers a stressor and these indicator muscles always test weaker anytime cell phones are near the body versus when the area is clear, which indicates that cell phones could be considered a stressor.”

When a phone or computer is communicating with a modem, a signal is being sent through the air. This communication between the phone and modem is part of an electromagnetic field, which has an influence on the body’s cells.

“They have used Gauss meters to measure electromagnetic fields surrounding phones,” said Dr. Cridland.

“Generally once the phone is three feet away the radiation levels don’t measure high enough to affect you, but within that range it’s certainly a noticeable amount.”

Aside from a phone’s electromagnetic field causing unnecessary stress to the body, all the texts, direct messages and notifications will cause the body to engage in a lighter sleep, which lessens the healing benefits deep sleep provides.

According to a study conducted on sleep deficiency by Dr. Charles A. Czeisler from the Harvard School of Medicine, 30 per cent of all employed U.S. adults and 44 per cent of night workers report averaging less than 6 hours sleep per night, whereas 50 years ago less than 3 per cent of the U.S. adult population slept so little.

“I do recommend using an alarm because it takes the stress of worrying about time away,” reminds Dr. Cridland.

“But I also recommend turning off all notifications and keeping the phone a safe distance from your body.”

Aside from the obvious stress related health concerns and potentially higher levels of radiation, putting the phone away before bed has many positive side effects.

Taking a technology hiatus makes it easier to enjoy the moment, forget about everything going on in the world and be with our own thoughts.

Smartphones can distract you from how tired your body is. Try using an old-school alarm clock for a week and leaving the phone outside the bedroom, see what affect it has on your sleeping habits.

Let us know your thoughts: Do you use your smartphone as an alarm clock? How does having the phone beside the bed affect your sleeping habits?

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