Sleep Care

Balancing Technology & Sleep

Technology has transformed our lives. In fact, technological advances have grown so fast and furious over the last couple decades that pretty much every aspect of our lives is touched by some form of technology. It is infiltrating both our personal and professional lives because cells phones, computers, and the Internet allow us to work and to communicate with others almost anywhere. Additionally, technology has empowered us to accomplish more and to learn more in a shorter period of time.

For instance, our consumption of media, whether it is e-mails, Facebook or television, has exploded. In 2008 as a whole, we consumed three times more information each day as people did in 1960. And we are constantly shifting our attention. In fact, new research shows that at work computer users change screens or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour.

But, all this nonstop interactivity comes at a cost. Scientists suggest that constantly juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can radically impact how people think and behave. For instance, our ability to

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focus and concentrate is being undermined by short bursts of information.

Research also indicates that the quality and quantity of sleep we get also is affected. A March 2011 poll by the National Sleep Foundation suggests that technology may be the root cause of truncated sleep schedules in the United States. In fact, using technology just before bedtime and in the middle of the night could be robbing us of much-needed sleep.

Aside from the fact that technology can be a major time-stealer, there is a biological reason behind this sleep loss as well. The light exposure from computer screens and other devices suppress the hormone melatonin which tells our bodies when it’s time to sleep. As result, taking in light from the screens of our devices confuses our body and we don’t feel sleepy like we would if we were simply reading a book or talking with friends.

According to the poll, Americans also report very active technology use in the hour before trying to sleep. Almost everyone surveyed, 95 percent, uses some type of electronics like a television, computer, video game or cell phone at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed. However, computers, cell phones and video games, which are more interactive, may also be making people more alert and disrupting the onset of sleep. Unfortunately, the very devices that make our lives more productive and enjoyable may result in sleep loss.

So what can you do? Use technology to your advantage, but don’t let it run your life. Begin by limiting time on social networking sites, e-mail and online games. Set aside one or two times during the day to check e-mail, connect on Facebook and post Twitter messages. But limit that time. Don’t let what was supposed to be 30 minutes turn into three hours online. Set a timer, say for 30 minutes or an hour in the morning and afternoon, if you have to, but don’t let technology consume your downtime.

Second, spend face-to-face time with your family or your friends. Schedule lunch dates or go for walks in the park and leave the gadgets in the car. Trying to multi-task by checking e-mail and posting to Facebook while you are with others is not only disruptive, but it is taxing on your relationships. Friends and family can feel forgotten and taken for granted. And, when you try to divide your attention, you may miss important

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Third, incorporate exercise into your daily routine to keep the blood pumping and to promote good health. Exercise increases your alertness and helps promote quality sleep at the end of the day. Again, leave your cell phone on the charger or in the car. Focus on taking care of yourself instead.

Finally, be protective of your sleep time. Allow your body to unwind naturally. Don’t use technology, including television, an hour before bedtime and keep the gadgets out of your bedroom. Countless studies have shown that sleep is vital to overall good health. Don’t skimp on it just to post one more comment on Facebook.

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