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How To Get The Best Sleep: Gadget Filled Bedrooms Hurts Sleep And Intimacy

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MONTREAL - Bedrooms are getting crowded with gadgets, giving a good night's rest and nookie some serious competition, say sleep experts.

"Two things happen in the bedroom — that's sleep and intimacy," said Dr. Robert Oexman, director of the Missouri-based Sleep to Live Institute.

But gadgets are interfering with both, Oexman said from Joplin, Mo.

In addition to TVs, computers, cellphones, e-readers and tablet computers are being used for work and entertainment in bedrooms, Oexman said.

"We involve ourselves with technology and it takes away our time to sleep."

Gadgets in the bedroom also lead to less intimacy, he said.

"Besides the television now, we also have the computer that goes to bed with you," Oexman said. "There is less intimacy associated in bedrooms."

Being exposed to light at night from these devices decreases the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps people sleep, he said.

Dr. Charles Samuels of the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance in Calgary said technology is intruding into people's lives when they should be winding down for sleep.

He notes there are teens who sleep with their cellphones turned on under their pillows to stay connected.

Technology can play a role in serious health consequences for teens such as weight gain, said Samuels.

"They're shortening their sleep and they're disturbing their sleep and that feeds into a cycle of excessive intake of high-calorie, dense foods," said Samuels, the centre's medical director.

Teens, who need more rest because they're growing, think they can handle all of this technology before bed, but they can't, he said.

"They need a one- to two-hour wind down where they're just not continuously stimulated so their brain can begin the process of going to sleep."

Some teens are tuning out the message.

Thirteen-year-old Mia says she's not convinced that being on her iPod Touch before bedtime playing games affects her rest.

"I don't have any problems sleeping at all," she said.

However, Samuels' advice for most folks is: "If you can sleep, you can do anything you want," adding that doesn't mean excessive drinking every night.

But for people who have sleep problems, they need to understand how technology can disrupt their sleep, Samuels added.

CEO Adrian Bulzacki of ARB Labs Inc. said technology is pervasive in people's lives because the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work world is disappearing.

"We tend to work on a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour work schedules now," said Bulzacki, whose Toronto company designs gesture recognition and display technologies.

He tries to only bring his cellphone, which he calls his "emergency anchor," into the bedroom to keep him connected and on top of work, and leaves other devices in the living room area.

Bulzacki doesn't work from his bed anymore.

"The reason I stopped, and it sounds like a silly thing to say, is the notebook gets extremely warm on your lap. I don't know the negative effects on my lap from that heat, but it can't be good."

Oexman said people have trouble leaving gadgets out of the bedroom because they're also used for social connections as well as surfing for information.

"We've got all of these easily accessible friends and connections and information — and we love information. It's difficult for us to get away from it," he said.

"We're pretty well hard wired to sleep. We just really mess it up ourselves."

Samuels also said there's a psychological impact of staying connected because of the feeling of "I am missing out. I am not moving forward."

With all the potential for excessive use of technology, what about the old saying: Everything in moderation?

"Good luck with that one," Samuels said.

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