Nocturnal use of electronic devices robs us of sleep hours

The light they produce is the main factor that modifies our circadian cycle. Almost 40 percent of the Mexican population reports suffering from poor sleep quality.

Nocturnal use of electronic devices robs us of sleep hours
Use of electronic devices at night robs us of sleep hours. Photo by Nubelson Fernandes / Unsplash

Luminous, visual and sound stimuli from cell phones, video games, computers, and televisions radiating at night cause Insufficient Sleep Syndrome to be the main sleep disorder today, says Rafael Santana Miranda, the physician in charge of the Sleep Disorders Clinic of the Faculty of Medicine (FM) of the UNAM.

We do not dedicate the necessary time to this complex phenomenon we call sleep and our society suffers from a restriction in this biological need. Not sleeping the hours we should (seven to eight in adults) will trigger problems related to chronic degenerative diseases that affect us today: obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer, among others.

Regarding World Sleep Day, which is celebrated on the Friday before the spring equinox and this year is March 18, the specialist assures: Technology allows us to continue educating ourselves during the pandemic and to have work and school activities at a distance, but also the light it produces is the main factor that modifies our circadian cycle, and our brain is activated in the presence of light.

"That can rob us of many hours. Only with education and discipline do we have to learn and teach children, whose brains are still developing. It is important to limit the amount of light," she stresses. In the case of minors, Santana Miranda recommends suspending activities with electronic devices three hours before bedtime, and not using them in infants and preschoolers. We have to be exposed to darkness so that, naturally, a series of events are triggered, such as the release of melatonin, which induces sleep and helps to make it restful.

Other disorders have increased with confinement, such as mood disorders and secondary insomnia because we have become anxious and depressed as we do not socialize, we have great stress because the crisis we are going through is economic as well as health-related, and some families live in overcrowded conditions. It is not possible to have a normal sleep without a healthy diet and physical activity. Its quality is a component of the condition of life, you have to give yourself time to sleep with everything and the great demands of modern life.

If a person has chronic insomnia for more than three days a week or for three months has difficulties of this type, he/she should be seen immediately at a specialized institution such as the Sleep Disorders Clinic.

Respiratory disorders during sleep are also frequent, the main symptom is snoring. It is not a normal phenomenon, it is a symptom that affects the sufferer and those who are close to him; it generates sleepiness during the day and is a frequent cause of traffic and work accidents. If there is snoring and the presence of respiratory pauses while sleeping and other associated symptoms, it is necessary to seek help because there are treatments to control these problems.

Before COVID-19, there is an association with obstructive sleep apnea, the most common respiratory disorder related to sleep, which causes breathing to stop and then stop repeatedly while sleeping. Based on international studies, snoring and respiratory pauses lead to chronic degenerative diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and are estimated to have a 200 percent higher risk of complications when associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Whoever registers sleep restriction compromises their immune system and the generation of antibodies is exposed; "it is diminished when I have not slept, regardless of whether I have diseases or not" on the contrary, sleep and rest favorably impact even cognitive processes such as memory, attention, and concentration, essential for our growth and development, as well as biological functions that are fundamental for life.

Get a good night's sleep

This commemoration is an annual event organized, starting in 2008, by the World Association of Sleep Medicine (WASM) World Sleep Day Commission.
Its purpose is to celebrate its benefits and to draw attention to aspects related to sleep disorders and treatments, the need for information and social aspects, as well as to promote the prevention of disorders and their management.

In this way, the Association seeks to increase awareness of the challenges in this area by promoting better understanding and prevention, thereby reducing the problem of dyssomnias (classification of disorders that make it difficult to stay asleep), which has a global extension and is estimated to threaten the health and quality of life of 45 percent of the world's population.

Lower quality of life

Young adults, women -in general- and health personnel who worked in the first line of care, are the three groups most affected in their quality of sleep during the pandemic, so they should return to better sleep hygiene before returning to normal activities, considers the researcher of the mentioned Clinic, Ulises Jiménez Correa. The National Health and Nutrition Survey, published in 2016, referred to the prevalence of insomnia of 18.8 percent for the Mexican population.  However, after the pandemic, 40 percent report poor sleep quality.

We are all sleeping poorly because we had to isolate ourselves, confine a lot of time with electronic devices, school and online work, less exercise, less social interaction, less exposure to light during the day and all of that influenced sleep to be very, very late and spoiled in a major way. The commemoration, promoted since 2008 by WASM, is a health promotion initiative that seeks to raise awareness that sleep is not a waste of time, we do not do it because we are not awake or because there is nothing else to do.

Interrupted sleep and drowsiness during the day diminish the quality of life; it also alters our emotional state, there is anxiety and marked symptoms of depression, so let's try to have restful, deep sleep and try to be happy. To take care of it is necessary, at least 30 minutes before sleeping, turn off lights and bright screens, exercise at least twice a week in the morning; if possible take a nap of 20 minutes in the afternoon, suggests Jimenez Correa.