Archive for May 8th, 2012


Feeling wired?

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

A New Reason to Unplug

Is your iPad to blame for your lack of sleep? It just well may be. Our inability to unplug—especially before hitting the sheets—is costing Americans the quality sleep they need to be alert, productive, and creative at work, according to a new study by the National Sleep Foundation.

More than half of 1,508 people age 13 to 64 responded that they experience a sleep problem—like snoring, not being able to sleep through the night, waking up too early, or feeling groggy in the morning—every night or every other night. And 43 percent say they never get a good night’s rest.

While many sleep and career experts have attributed problems sleeping to workplace issues like the high rate of unemployment, employers expecting remaining employees to produce more with less, and the overall stress over being under- or over-employed, and even the stresses of starting their own business, the National Sleep Foundation points to the electronics in our lives as being just as disruptive a force as those racing thoughts that keep many up at night. For those who are currently employed, 74 percent of those over 30 said that being sleepy has affected their work.

And Apple isn’t the only company to blame. A full 95 percent of those surveyed say they use electronics such as a TV, a computer, a videogame, or a cell phone in the hour before going to bed. “Light-emitting screens are in heavy use within the pivotal hour before sleep,” Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said in a statement. “Invasion of such alerting technologies into the bedroom may contribute to the high proportion of respondents who report they routinely get less sleep.”

According to the study, Millennials and Gen Xers are most prone to surfing online (55 and 47 percent respectively) and gaming (36 and 28 percent) instead of catching Zs. Michael Gradisar, PhD, Finders University in Australia, said that while people may perceive that watching late-night TV or playing a game affects their sleep patterns differently, using any of these devices is disruptive because they keep you more alert, and in some cases—such as using the Internet or playing a videogame—canactually cause anxiety.

And when people don’t get a good night’s sleep, their productivity suffers the next day, experts said. They’re not only tired and can lose focus more easily, they’re also more likely to snap at coworkers and not think through scenarios with the same sharpness. Eighty-five percent of respondents said inadequate sleep affects their mood, and 68 percent said it affects their social lives.

Unfortunately, employers can’t regulate what their workers do when they’re off the clock, although keeping closer to an eight-hour day, however unlikely, would be beneficial so employees won’t feel that they have to cram their “lives” part of living into a few precious hours. Cutting out the caffeine is also a good way to cope with sleeplessness. The average American drinks three 12-ounce caffeinated beverages per day to stay awake, the study found.

So what can employees do to get some shut-eye?

  • Set and stick to a sleep schedule. It sounds simple, but it’s hard to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Expose yourself to bright light in the morning, avoid it at night. Morning light is energizing, but when it’s closer to bedtime, dim those bulbs.
  • Treat your bed as a sanctuary from the stresses of the day. Don’t take work to bed with you. If you have to proof a quote or read something from work, do it somewhere else.
  • No nightcaps. Drinking alcohol before bed can not only rob you of deep sleep, it can also cause you to wake up early.
  • No late-afternoon or evening naps—unless you work at night. If you have to nap, do so for no longer than 45 minutes and before 3 p.m.

As difficult as it may seem to make a conscious effort to unplug and walk away from work by a certain hour, the time most employees could gain in restful sleep could well outweigh any halfhearted work they may be able to produce in the wee hours.

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