Messing With The Mind

I’m taking a slight diversion this week and sharing something with you that I have recently been giving more attention.  It’s one of those things that you hear about once and say “That’s interesting”.  You hear about it a second time and say “I’ve heard that before” and then by the third, fourth or fifth time you say “Okay, maybe this is a sign I’m suppose to get locked in on this.”

That’s what happened to me in the last nine months on the subject of “Sleep”.  Now, before you quit reading, know this; I’m NOT going into the subject of amount of sleep. Instead, I’m intrigued by and specifically going to discuss technologies negative impact on sleep and thus our overall health and performance.

Last April, Lou Pavlovich, editor of Collegiate Baseball interviewed Dr. James Maas and wrote an article where he discussed the value of and how to achieve proper sleep.  It was a very detailed article and in it one part he referenced how our computers, I-phones, I-pads, etc were detrimental to our sleep when used right before going to bed.  The article was my “That’s interesting” moment. (You can read part of the article online, here)

Then this past fall when Coach Wolforth and I were in Belgium for the European Baseball Coaches Association Clinic, Jeff Krushell, Strength & Conditioning Consultant for Major League Baseball International and President of Human Sports Performance mentioned the same thing during one of his presentations.  His message emphasized the effects on young athletes.  This was my “I’ve heard that before” moment.

Then in the last two weeks, I’ve come across and read two additional magazine articles on the subject.  Our family had already had discussions on the topic and taken some personal action but the last couple occurrences pushed me to share the information with you.

I’ve teased you a little to this point with the underlying message that our technology (tools/toys) are being shown to affect our sleep.  So, the questions should be: “How?” and “If so, what can be done to alleviate the problem?”

Let’s start with the how (and I’ll try to keep this rather simple).  When used at night, it is believed that the blue light given off by these devices can fool the brain into thinking it’s still daylight thus disturbing sleep patterns.  We have what is called a circadian rhythm which works on our 24 hour cycle.  It’s our body’s natural ebb and flow.

The blue light emitted by these devices closely simulates outdoor daylight.  As a result, the light triggers the brain to stay awake disrupting the natural and much needed production of melatonin.

Understand that the interruption of the circadian rhythm can have significantly more consequences than the limited discussion here.  In addition, other elements of your sleeping environment can affect the rhythms.  This week I simply wanted to address the blue light affects of our gadgets.

So what can or should we do?  The number one recommendation I’ve read over and over again is to shut off these devices at least one hour before going to bed.  I don’t know about you but that’s a challenge in our house.  We’ve compromised, started with 30 minutes and are slowly working our way up.  It’s particularly hard if you’re one to read books on your I-pad when you go to bed or you’re a student doing homework on the computer right up until you crawl into bed.

The other thing I was just recently introduced to is a download that automatically changes the color of your computer display to match the time of day.  It looks to be promising.  The link is  I have told my son that this does not eliminate the 30 minute shutdown mandate.  (He had been hopeful.)

I encourage you to look into this more yourself.  I have found it quite interesting.  Remember, it simply comes down to not stimulating the optic nerve once the sun goes down.

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