The use of electronic gadgets, such as smartphones and tablets, in bed has a high association with insomnia, medical experts said on World Sleep Day yesterday.
World Sleep Day was initiated by the World Sleep Society in 2008 to increase public awareness about how sleep can affect mental and physical health, China Medical University Hsinchu Hospital psychiatrist Wang Ming-yu (王明鈺) said.
About 4 million Taiwanese — almost one in five — suffer from insomnia, Taiwan Society of Sleep Medicine data show, while the number of sleeping pills prescribed in 2018 exceeded 900 million, according to National Health Insurance Administration data.
Photo: Liao Hsueh-ju, Taipei Times
The screens of electronic gadgets emit strong blue light, which after entering the retina is turned into neurological signals that create the illusion of daylight in the pineal gland, suppressing its production of melatonin, a hormone secreted at night to help with sleep, Wang said.
Instead of relaxing, the brain continues to operate, causing problematic conditioning in which the brain links the bed to the use of electronic gadgets over time, she said.
People who must use electronic devices at night should use them away from the bedroom and keep it as a place solely for rest, she added.
Users of electronic gadgets at night should turn down the brightness of the screen so that production of melatonin remains at a normal level, Wang said.
Wang’s colleague psychiatrist Chou Po-han (周伯翰) said that besides nighttime exposure to blue light, insomnia can also be caused by anxiety, depression, stress or pain, so it is important to identify the cause and implement the correct treatment rather than prescribing sleeping pills, which could lead to addiction and abuse.
Clinical psychologists Lin Shih-ing (林詩穎) and Hung Ing-tzu (洪櫻慈) said that people who suffer from insomnia, but prefer not to take drugs, could try cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on adjusting a person’s problematic sleep-related habits and thoughts to improve their sleep.
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