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Living Without Your Smartphone May Not Help You Sleep Better

Living Without Your Smartphone May Not Help You Sleep Better

Studies, as well as opinion pieces published by Mom’s around the globe, have attacked smartphones and blame them for segmented or interrupted sleep. However, we found that “Smartphones aren’t the only reason our sleep gets interrupted.” In a recent study published in The American Journal of Human Biology, segmented sleep might not have anything to do with being subjected to unnatural sources of light like smartphones and devices. Non-electric communities can face the same kind of interrupted sleep as Western world cultures that habitually use devices that emit blue light.

According to The American Journal of Human Biology, “The researchers tracked the sleep of 21 adults in the rural farming village of Mandena in northeastern Madagascar for 292 nights. Though some people in Mandena have generators or solar panels, the village itself has no infrastructure for electricity, which means that most people rely on cooking fires, kerosene lamps, a few battery-powered flashlights or the moon and stars for light after the sun goes down.” The researchers set out to measure sleep patterns in terms of both sleep duration and quality. What they found was quite astounding for a group of people who are exposed to a very healthy amount of natural light and are not continually exposed to artificial light.

“The villagers wore watch-like trackers that monitored light and movement, recording nightly sleep as well as daytime naps. Nine of the individuals were also tracked for a night using polysomnogram tests, which record electrical activity in the brain and muscles and provide more accurate measures of sleep stage and quality. Compared to similarly sized groups of adults of approximately the same ages in both the U.S. and Italy, the villagers from Mandena slept for less time and had poorer sleep across all other quality measures the researchers tracked.” The researchers believe their living conditions to be a contributing factor.

Much like the facilities above, rural farming villages do not have contemporary housing with insulated walls. Many houses are built with tin or bamboo walls, thatched roofs and doors that do not latch or sometimes no doors at all. Thus, outside noise is a factor and a contributor to interrupted or segmented sleep because villagers are often subjected to night time social hours, children playing or crying, and livestock.

While the villagers of Mandena do not use devices, the researchers found that “although average sleep duration and quality were lower than documented in Western populations, circadian rhythms were more stable across days.” This is due to the consistency and daily activities of the villagers, most of which spend their entire day outside exposed to natural sunlight.

What does this mean for the future of sleep when it comes to devices like smartphones? That while studies indicate we can have interrupted sleep whether we live by Western culture or not, we should take a cue from our neighbors in Mandena and spend a few hours outside. Your circadian rhythm with thank you for it!

Want to stay on top of all the latest sleep news? Check out NuSleep’s blog: Holy Sheets! We offer up to date advice on all things sleep and just how to get the best night’s sleep- ever!



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  • Romell Bhaala