Using an iPad at bedtime? How's your sleep?

There is a growing body of evidence that using an electronic device like an iPad before sleep isn’t good for your sleep. The issue is with devices that use a screen that shines light at you.

A recent report published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the Unites States of America under the title Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness defines the significance of the problem like this:

The use of light-emitting electronic devices for reading, communication, and entertainment has greatly increased recently. We found that the use of these devices before bedtime prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep, delays the circadian clock, suppresses levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, reduces the amount and delays the timing of REM sleep, and reduces alertness the following morning. Use of light-emitting devices immediately before bedtime also increases alertness at that time, which may lead users to delay bedtime at home. Overall, we found that the use of portable light-emitting devices immediately before bedtime has biological effects that may perpetuate sleep deficiency and disrupt circadian rhythms, both of which can have adverse impacts on performance, health, and safety.**

In other words, that electronic device shining light at you is seriously messing with your sleep.

The more I read about sleep the more I think that we are causing ourselves all sorts of damage by the ways we mess about with it.

Here’s some advice from the NHS on sleep hygiene:

Also reported here:

**highlight mine

You're being distracted by your mobile phone, even though you aren't using it!

This is the abstract from a report which was recently published in Social Psychology:

Research consistently demonstrates the active use of cell phones, whether talking or texting, to be distracting and contributes to diminished performance when multitasking (e.g., distracted driving or walking). Recent research also has indicated that simply the presence of a cell phone and what it might represent (i.e., social connections, broader social network, etc.) can be similarly distracting and have negative consequences in a social interaction. Results of two studies reported here provide further evidence that the ‘‘mere presence’’ of a cell phone may be sufficiently distracting to produce diminished attention and deficits in task-performance, especially for tasks with greater attentional and cognitive demands. The implications for such an unintended negative consequence may be quite wide-ranging (e.g., productivity in school and the work place).

Just the “mere presence” of the phone may be enough for you to be distracted from that really important task that you are doing – like driving, or reviewing that multi-million pound deal, or researching a cure for cancer, or learning how to be the next great coder, or caring for your friends and family.

I’m sitting here with two mobile phones on my desk so this morning I’m going to try an experiment. The phones are going in a drawer and I’ll see whether I feel any less distracted than I normally do, hopefully this is enough to remove them from “mere presence”. Perhaps this will become a new way of working. I’m still going to allow audio distractions from someone ringing me because that’s part of the important job, but I’m going to see if I can focus a bit more by removing this needless distraction.

Being Present: Downside the App

How often do you get to meet a bunch of friends only for everyone to spend all of their time distracted by their phones.

Well now, as the saying goes, there’s an app for that. It’s called Downside and it turns the challenge of staying in the present into a game:

Business Mobility and the Work/Life Balance Paradox (or Contradiction)

The following is an extract from this report: Next-Generation Knowledge Workers – Accelerating the Disruption in Business Mobility by Cisco:
Jimmy does BlackBerry

The revolution in business mobility is ongoing and constantly changing, and we are in the middle of what we see as a four-stage process (“Forming,” “Storming,” “Norming,” and “Performing”). Each phase has been driven forward by changes in “DNA,” all of which are driving us toward the next phase.

An indication of business mobility’s importance in the current “Storming” phase can be seen in the following: 40 percent of our respondents believe that without their devices, they could not function more than one hour without their jobs being impacted. And approximately 50 percent of mobile-enabled workers have seen productivity gains in the past two years.

As work responsibilities become ever more demanding and time consuming, many people fear an encroachment on their home lives and free time. Looking ahead, our survey respondents see mobile technology becoming increasingly important as they continue the everyday battle to achieve work/life harmony. More than 50 percent see mobile devices as a way to improve their work/life balance.

As for increased freedom and mobility, more than 30 percent of our respondents currently work from home regularly. Another 30 percent expect to be working more from home in the future.

A key element in the juggling of work and life is time. More than 30 percent of our respondents believe that they have been working longer hours; yet more than 40 percent feel they have more control over how, when, and where they work.

I’m sure that these results are what people told Cisco, but what an intriguing set of paradoxical, or even contradictory, views.

Paradox: A seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.

Contradiction: A combination of statements, ideas, or features of a situation that are opposed to one another.

Paradox or contradiction? Mobile business technology enables improvements in productivity, but has facilitated a culture that is dependent upon immediate responses effectively tethering us to our mobile devices. But reactionary working is rarely productive working. Other people propose scheduled periods of disconnection in order to find a place to ‘reset the soul’.

Paradox or contradiction? Mobile business technology has improved our work/life balance, but has facilitated longer working hours from people who believe that they have more control over how, when and where they work. Long working hours are linked to depression, which can’t be good for anyone’s work/life balance, and how real is that control anyway? People regularly speak of manager mis-trust and feeling like they are ‘out of sight – out of mind’. Yet telecommuting is consistently ranked high on people’s list of job requirements with some preferring it over salary.

Is the news making you sad?

An interesting article in The Guardian today – News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier. It’s based on a book by Rolf Dobelli called the Art of Thinking Clearly.

Putting aside the irony of a newspaper producing an article that is saying that news is bad for you, it raises some interesting points.

Some of what it is saying is drawing on the same sources and thinking that have driven many of my Information Addiction posts, but it goes further to focus in on news itself:

We are not rational enough to be exposed to the press. Watching an airplane crash on television is going to change your attitude toward that risk, regardless of its real probability. If you think you can compensate with the strength of your own inner contemplation, you are wrong. Bankers and economists – who have powerful incentives to compensate for news-borne hazards – have shown that they cannot. The only solution: cut yourself off from news consumption entirely.

The article goes on to describe that:

  • News misleads – making us irrational.
  • News is irrelevant – of all of that news out there a tiny amount has any direct impact on us individually.
  • News has no explanatory power – “News items are bubbles popping on the surface of a deeper world.”
  • News is toxic to your body – by constantly triggering the limbic system and releasing cortisol.
  • News increases cognitive errors – giving us confirmation bias. “In the words of Warren Buffett: “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.””
  • News inhibits thinking – because it impacts our ability to concentrate.
  • News works like a drug – something we’ve seen a number of times on this site.
  • News wastes time – back to the point about relevance, if it’s not relevant why spend time on it.
  • News kills creativity – “I don’t know a single truly creative mind who is a news junkie – not a writer, not a composer, mathematician, physician, scientist, musician, designer, architect or painter. On the other hand, I know a bunch of viciously uncreative minds who consume news like drugs.”

This is where I need to admit to being a bit of a news junkie, but also knowing that it’s not doing me any good.

You might have noticed that the amount I’ve been writing has dropped off in recent months, that’s partly because I’ve spent too much time focussing on the news interrupts and not enough time on thinking and reflecting. That’s partly down to a modern workplace challenge where immediacy is king, but it’s also down to my working habits.

How about you?