Wed, Apr 12, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Devices blamed for rise in insomnia

By William Hetherington  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Doctors recommend not using electronic devices for 30 minutes before going to sleep, citing research showing chronic insomnia among one in 10 people aged 15 years or older.

Doctors said the research, published on March 24, showed that women and people aged 50 to 69 are particularly susceptible to insomnia.

The telephone research, conducted among 1,073 respondents by the Taiwan Society of Sleep Medicine and the Chang Gung Medical Foundation Sleep Center, was aimed at addressing the increasing prevalence of sleep disorders, researchers said.

Center director Chen Ning-hung (陳濘宏) said that chronic insomnia can manifest as an inability to fall asleep 30 minutes after going to bed, an inability to fall back to sleep after waking up during the night and waking up earlier than expected in the morning.

Chen said sleep problems are classified as chronic insomnia when they occur three or more times per week and persist for three or more months.

Chen said that a correlation between advanced age and insomnia was also found, with those aged 50 to 69 twice as likely to develop insomnia as the same age-group was 10 years ago.

Women are nearly twice as likely to experience insomnia as men, Chen said, citing a 13 percent rate among women compared with 8.6 percent among men.

Center clinical psychologist Wu Chia-shuo (吳家碩) said the high rate of insomnia among women is linked to changes in hormone levels caused by menstruation, pregnancy and menopause, adding that insomnia rates among mothers is as high as 57.7 percent.

Wu said the reason for sleep being affected by electronic devices has to do with the body’s production of melatonin — a hormone secreted by the body in higher quantities when the retina receives less light, telling the body to prepare for sleep.

Wu said that the blue light emitted from the screens of mobile devices tricks the brain into thinking it is still daytime and to therefore reduce melatonin production.

Research conducted in 2013 showed that using a mobile device for two hours before sleep causes a 23 percent reduction in melatonin levels in the body, Wu said, adding that doctors advise refraining from device use in the 30 minutes before sleep.

It is also best to take a break from mobile devices after every one hour of use, Wu said.

“If you do not touch your cellphone in the last half hour before you go to bed, it will be much easier to get a good sleep,” Wu said.

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