Doctor: Cell phones hurt sleep quality

Doctor: Cell phones hurt sleep quality

Doctor: Cell phones hurt sleep quality

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by Erica Heartquist / KGW.com

khou.com

Posted on November 19, 2013 at 9:13 AM

PORTLAND, Oregon -- Come on, admit it. You text and email from bed. If you don't, studies show you could soon be in the minority.

A new study showed that nearly 75 percent of people fall asleep each night with their cell phones within reach. But experts said using a phone before bed has been shown to interfere with the length and quality of your sleep.

"I mean, they've designed it so that it integrates into everything. You know? Entertainment, planning everything and research," said Gabe Edwards.

Edwards is a busy medical school student from San Francisco who admitted that he uses his laptop

"It definitely gets compulsive," he said while holding his iPhone.  "Having the bright lights and interacting with it. It does stimulate the brain and it does make it harder to fall asleep."

He also uses his phone as an alarm clock which experts said makes it all too easy to check email that one last time or send one final text right before hitting the hay.

"It's a very activating behavior. Your brain is engaged, your fingers are engaged. If you're typing, that's not part of a normal sleep preparation routine," said Doctor Jeffrey Bluhm with the Providence Sleep Disorder Center.

He explained that staying "plugged-in" at all times can be a problem.

Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can increase the risk for heart attacks, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and strokes.

"It used to be that it was more obvious. It was a television on or they had to get up to turn off a movie or something like that. Now, it's easy to go to bed with an iPad or a smart phone. It's not something that you necessarily have to actively turn off. You just set it down on the nightstand, and [the phone] goes to sleep on its own. But it's still active and if it's set to buzz or ring, it will continue to do that," said Dr. Bluhm.

And, Bluhm said if your phone wakes you up in the morning, it may also be keeping you up at night.

A 2008 study funded by companies that make the phones found that people exposed to a mobile phone before bed took longer to fall asleep and spent less time in deep sleep patterns.

"If you're awakening because of an alarm, it's disrupting your sleep. There may even be times where you have what's called an 'arousal' which is where your brain briefly wakes up, but your body doesn't and that can disrupt your sleep. The next morning you may not even be aware of it," Bluhm added.

The itch to check in all hours of the night or wake to the sound of a text can disrupt sleep too, said Bluhm.

A quarter of young people feel like they must be available by phone around the clock, according to a Swedish study that linked chronic cell phone use to sleep problems and depression.

It's something doctor Bluhm said he's seeing more often.

"Almost ubiquitous use by just about everybody. Now, nearly 24/7 at times," he said.

"Even if you want to unplug, you have to worry that you're missing something," said Edwards.

That "on call" attitude can lead to anxious need and addiction, experts said, not to mention those health effects to your body.

Sleep Solution:

Doctor Bluhm recommends plugging in cell phones for their overnight charge anywhere but in a bedroom.  He tells people that if they must have it in the bedroom, make sure all the alerts are turned off.

"Silence it, so that it's not chiming or ringing and ideally not even vibrating or buzzing during the night because all of those can be disrupting," said Bluhm.

In other helpful advice, Bluhm said the "Do Not Disturb" function on the iPhone5 is becoming more and more popular. It's a program which blocks texts, e-mails and phone calls.  There is also a similar app available for older iPhone models which lets the user choose who can get through and when.

That idea sounds like a good one to very busy people like Edwards.

"If your phone's going off. Even if you don't wake up fully, it'll have an effect," he said.

"My ringer's always off and its on vibrate [when I sleep]. I've never been woken up by the sound of it vibrating as far as I know. But, maybe I'm wrong, according to the sleep doctor," said Edwards with a smile.

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