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Advice for Digital Immigrants
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Sleep is like Oxygen
For specific English quotes and references, see English Version below.
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Sleep is like Oxygen
Happy New Year. I hope that you all have had a good respite over the holidays. I had the week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day and really enjoyed the chance to sleep in past 5 am which is my regular time to wake up. That has inspired me to share some thoughts about sleep in this month’s column about technology.
Technology, mostly in the form of cell phones, is having a negative impact on our nation’s sleep habits. This is particularly true of adolescent brains, but it really is a concern for all of us. According to TechTimeOut:
There are 3 main ways that technology impacts our sleep:
- The light from the devices suppresses melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.
- The devices are mentally and physically stimulating.
- When we use our devices in bed, we create a learned association as the bed being a place of study or work or socializing – NOT a place for sleeping. (TechTimeOut, n.d.)
I used to think that getting short nights of sleep could be remedied by breaks between semesters or holidays. I just caught up on my sleep, but listening to the Hidden Brain podcast from NPR, I discovered that wasn’t the case. Here are the words of Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist from the University of California – Berkeley:
The human brain is not capable of getting back all of the sleep that it has lost. So sleep, in this regard, is not like the bank. You can’t accumulate a debt and then pay it off at some later point in time. There isn’t a credit system in the brain or the body. And we can ask, by the way, why? Why isn’t there something like that? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
And there is precedent there – fat cells. So there were times in evolution when we would have feast, and there were times when there was famine. And we designed a system to come up and store that caloric credit and so that we could spend it when there was a debt.
Hidden Brain’s host Shankar Vedantam brings the point home with this analogy:
There may be a reason our bodies don’t do this. The right analogy to sleep might not be eating but breathing. You can’t say, I’ll skip today and catch up on my breathing tomorrow. (Vedantam, 2017, November 6)
So, as I start my new year, one of my resolutions is to get more sleep. Research shows it contributes to more effective learning and memory (Vedantam, 2017, November 13). I encourage you to consider it yourself and to encourage your students to shift their mindset to think of sleeping like breathing. So, I wish you both a happy new year and a good night’s sleep.
TechTimeOut (n.d.) “Three ways technology impacts sleep.” Retrieved from http://techtimeout.com/three-ways-technology-impacts-sleep/.
Vedantam, S. (2017, November 6). “Eleven Days without Sleep.” Hidden Brain. [Podcast] National Public Radio. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2017/11/06/562305141/eleven-days-without-sleep-the-haunting-effects-of-a-record-breaking-stunt. |
Vedantam, S. (2017, November 13). “The ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of Health: A Good Night’s Sleep.” Hidden Brain. [Podcast] National Public Radio. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2017/11/13/563831137/the-swiss-army-knife-of-health-a-good-nights-sleep | Accessible Transcript