Sleep and your (not so) smart phone

By Lucy Braude, Psychologist

We spend a lot of time talking about sleep at the BMI Clinic. Why is this? After all, we all know sleep is important, but what has sleep got to do with weight?   The answer is that sleep plays an important role in regulating the hormones in our body which control appetite, satiety and stress levels. When we are sleep deprived, this leads us to feel hungrier, need more food to feel satisfied and crave sweets.  Over time, this can unfortunately impact weight.  

Of course, there are many reasons why you might be sleep deprived. Young children, shift work, medications, long working hours and mental health conditions are all common reasons why we don’t get enough sleep.  

One big reason for sleep difficulties that I hear of time and time again is that people simply describe feeling “wired”, or “just not tired” thus unable to fall asleep, or return to sleep in the night. When we talk about this more, it often turns out to be relateto answering work emails, replying to texts, scrolling through social media or catching up on news headlines before bed. Or worry about the next day: “What if it rains?” “Which bus did I need to catch?” “I should double check the time of my flight/appointment/meeting” the list goes on!  

What do many of these have in common? Spending time on our smart phones. Unsurprisingly, this googling, communicating, scrolling, decision-making and switching attention between apps keeps our brains going and stops us from feeling sleepy. 

So what can you do?  

  1. Avoid temptation. Turn your phone off and/or place it on the other side of the room. Try it just for one night – you will survive!
  2. Put your phone onto airplane mode so you are not disturbed by vibrations or noises
  3. Ask yourself: How urgent is this really? Waking up 20 minutes earlier to respond to emails and messages is more efficient than doing them late at night and compromising your sleep.   
  4. Give yourself at least half an hour without your phone before trying to sleep. In this time, you could read, journal, listen to music, chat with your partner or do a crossword puzzle. 
  5. Buy yourself a cheap bedside clock. That way you are not relying on your phone as an alarm clock or reaching for it in the night to check the time. 
  6. Place a piece of paper or a note book next to your bed. That way, you can simply jot down worries or reminders for to look at in the morning.  
  7. Remember the basicsavoiding day time naps, having a similar sleep and wake time each day, avoiding caffeine and sugar before bed and having a ‘wind down’ routine can all help your sleep quality significantly.  
  8. If you are consistently struggling with sleep then it is worth talking to your doctor about. Even if you don’t want medication, a doctor can talk you through options you have not yet considered, look at underlying causes and provide referrals to specialists if needed 

 Sweet dreams! 

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