How “Unplugging” Could Save Your Life

How often are you plugged into a device? Do you constantly check your cell phone notifications for texts and emails as they appear?

Go out for dinner and you’ll see that nearly every individual has a cell phone within reach. For most, the cell phone is an alarm clock and a way to read articles before bed. However, being closer to your cell phone than a loved one messes with your health in dangerous ways.

Do You Even Remember What Real Sleep Feels Like?

Did you know that you have your own chronotype? This means there is a sleep cycle that your body naturally prefers over what it’s stuck with. Unfortunately, society is structured within a nine-to-five work frame. Those night owls with the night shift aren’t lazy because they’re left sleeping into the afternoon.

You don’t necessarily have a sleeping disorder. Perhaps you are forced to shift your sleep schedule for every new job and major life change. Perhaps staring at some technological device is now a necessary part of the daily grind.

An unfortunate number of people sleep with a cell phone at hand: 71 percent of Americans. On average, upon waking, 57 percent will use their cell phone once an hour, and in busy cities like New York, that number becomes 96 percent. Your mobile bedtime reading is severely depriving you of sleep, too. The light of the device suppresses melatonin and messes with your circadian rhythms (and your life).

Lack of Sleep Can Mean Life or Death

Countless articles remind you of the importance of unplugging to get better sleep and a better work-life balance. Your brain uses as much oxygen during REM as when it’s awake, and if you’re sleep-deprived, your brain fails to filter out information appropriately. Sleep deprivation not only affects your work performance, but may lead to death:

Unplugging earlier and more often from television, smartphones, tablets and laptops reduces the risk of sleep-deprivation and related fatal statistics. Yet, it’s not only the fact that you’re sleeping with your cell phone and using it so often: The device itself is being called into question.

Cell Phone Radiation Is a Concern

Here’s the reason you may want to limit your usage: The “old cell phone causes cancer” question is back again and the most recent study has merit.

Previous studies conducted on radiation and animals weren’t sustained long enough to produce meaningful results. Even the researchers of this recent study were initially skeptical. This study, from scientists at the National Toxicology Program (NTP), documents an unprecedented amount of rodents that underwent a lifetime of radio-frequency (RF) radiation, beginning in utero. The study was formulated to emulate the conditions of humans who use or are exposed to cell phones heavily in their daily lives. The rodents resided in a chamber that exposed their bodies with varying degrees of radiation nine hours a day throughout the two-year span of their life. The results linked the exposure of RF radiation to the onset of at least two cell types of rare cancers in the hearts and brains of the rodents.

The finding isn’t associative, as the link between cancer and radiation association is clear. Dr. Christopher Portier, a retired head of the NTP and consultant, calls the findings a “causative study,” as everything was controlled within the study and the link is transparent. Even a low exposure to radio-frequency radiation is a cause for concern.

There are a few ways to reduce RF exposure. Consider keeping your cell phone on a surface and not your body, and try to use speakerphone or a headset, rather than taking calls directly.

Fortunately, more people are texting these days, anyway. Just don’t text while driving.

Reducing your device usage has an impact beyond work-life balance. Unplugging — or at least not checking your cell phone every hour — may just save your life.


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