Technology’s Affect on Mental Health

In this day and age, our lives are hugely supplemented by technology. Without our phones, laptops, tv’s, wireless routers, and Bluetooth devices our world would crash.

But is there a price to be paid for convenience and speed?

These devices, that most of us spend ten-plus hours on daily, emit something called blue light. This blue light can be detrimental to our health.

Technology’s interference with our circadian rhythm

The National Institute for General Sciences describes circadian rhythm as

“physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. They respond primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. Sleeping at night and being awake during the day is an example of a light-related circadian rhythm.

Natural factors within the body produce circadian rhythms. However, signals from the environment also affect them. The main cue influencing circadian rhythms is daylight. Changing the light-dark cycles can speed up, slow down, or reset biological clocks as well as circadian rhythms.”

The body produces a hormone called melatonin which is known as the sleep hormone. This hormone regulates sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin production is affected by the light and dark cycle of our environment.

Darkness signals to our brain to begin producing more melatonin and when there is more light in the environment the brain is signaled to stop melatonin production.

Technology is used around the globe twenty-four hours a day. When technology is used at night, the blue light that is emitted from our devices interferes with our regular melatonin production and therefore our circadian rhythm.

Without melatonin, it is hard for our bodies to fall asleep and/or have the quality of sleep that is needed for recovery. A 2017 article found in Translational Psychiatry stated that “sleep disturbance is an important factor contributing to the onset and maintenance of mood disorders,” among other health problems.

American Psychological Association released a study that showed that the rates of mood disorders and suicides have dramatically increased in the last ten years. While it may still be somewhat controversial, studies are beginning to show the correlation between technology use, sleep disturbance, and the rise in mental illness.

What you can do

Harvard Health wrote an article about blue light stating,

“Researchers at the University of Toronto compared the melatonin levels of people exposed to bright indoor light who were wearing blue-light–blocking goggles to people exposed to regular dim light without wearing goggles. The fact that the levels of the hormone were about the same in the two groups strengthens the hypothesis that blue light is a potent suppressor of melatonin. It also suggests that shift workers and night owls could perhaps protect themselves if they wore eyewear that blocks blue light. Inexpensive sunglasses with orange-tinted lenses block blue light, but they also block other colors, so they’re not suitable for use indoors at night. Glasses that block out only blue light can cost up to $80.”

The Harvard article went on to describe how other colored light may have some effect on melatonin production, but that blue light was by far the biggest culprit in decreasing melatonin production. By decreasing your blue light exposure at night you may save yourself from experiencing health problems down the road.

Along with blue-blocking glasses, there are apps and filters that you can put on your phone and computer to block the blue light at night.

For further study check out these additional articles: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/should-you-be-worried-about-blue-light

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4734149/

National Sleep Awareness Week

Do you find yourself feeling tired and sluggish all day even after a full night’s rest? If so, you may be part of the 20% of the population who suffer from day time sleepiness.

Day time sleepiness may be one of the most common plagues of our day and while its prevalence may not be a surprise, there are many health risks and pesky side effects associated with poor sleep that many people aren’t aware of. We will be discussing what contributes to sleep health and why sleep is so important.

consequences of poor sleep

Most people know that if they don’t get enough sleep then they will be tired the next morning. What some don’t realize is that some of the consequences associated with poor sleep go far beyond just being tired the next day.

Those who don’t sleep enough can have difficulty with mental processes such as recalling, retaining, and processing information, concentration, or may have sudden mood changes or irritability.

Lack of sleep can wear you and your body down. Not being in a good mood the day after a long night of binge watching your favorite Netflix show is fine and good (and should be done every now and then), but what are the risks associated with consistently not getting enough sleep? Those who consistently lack sleep or lack enough quality sleep have a greater risk of weakening their immune system and ,therefore, getting sick, having a low sex drive, and gaining weight. Just to name a few.

But unfortunately it doesn’t end there. The longer you go being sleep deprived the greater risk you have for developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Luckily there is a lot you can control when it comes to your sleep and there are a lot of things you can do to help increase the quality of your sleep.

how to increase your sleep health

Here is a list of things you can do to increase the amount and quality of sleep you are getting.

  1. PLAN FOR SLEEP: Plan ahead of time so that your daily activities end early enough for you to get enough shut eye. There are sleep calculators out there you can use to figure out how many hours of sleep you need to feel refreshed as well as suggestions for when to go to bed and what time to wake up.
  2. KEEP TO A CONSISTENT SCHEDULE: Go to bed and wake up the same time every day. The consistency helps your body self-regulate and makes it easier to go to bed and get up in the morning.
  3. KNOW YOURSELF: Know the amount of hours that make you feel the best. It is recommended that kids sleep between 8-12 hours, teens between 8-10 hours, and adults sleep between 7-9 hours each night. If it is recommended that you sleep 7-9 hours but always feel better when you sleep around six hours then do that. Know the hour range that works best with your body.
  4. LET THE LIGHT IN: Opening the windows first thing in the morning helps kickstart your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is our body’s natural sleep/wake cycle and it is directly influenced by light and darkness. The light lets our body know that it is time to be awake, to move, and to have energy. Adversely, the darkness tells our body that it is time to shut down, relax, and go to sleep.
  5. NAP EARLY OR DONT NAP AT ALL: Napping (especially later in the evening) can mess with our circadian rhythm and also throw off our sleep schedule. If we nap too late in the evening we will not feel tired at the time we would normally get tired.
  6. DECREASE SCREEN TIME: All electronics emit a blue light that interferes with the circadian rhythm, telling your body that it’s time to be awake. Using electronics especially late at night will greatly interfere with your sleep and the quality of sleep you are getting. Try to decrease your over all screen time during the day, turn off all electronics at least an hour before going to bed, use blue light blocking glasses, or install apps on your phone that block blue light to get better sleep quality.
  7. EXERCISE DAILY: Daily exercise helps expel energy and naturally aid in being tired.
  8. DECREASE STIMULANTS: Having too many stimulants during the day or taking them too late at night will affect your sleep/wake cycle or the ability to go to bed. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, teas, or coffee too late at night.
  9. SLEEP WHEN YOU’RE TIRED: Go to sleep when you feel like sleeping. If you push past the sleepiness to finish whatever you may be doing at the time, you can finish your task and find that you are not tired. By ignoring your body you tell it that you are staying awake and to produce energy. This can make it difficult to fall asleep later on.
  10. LOWER YOUR BEDROOM TEMPERATURE: A lower bedroom temperature is conducive to sleep. A cooler temperature helps you fall asleep quicker.
  11. NO FOOD BEFORE BED: Eat a light dinner or eat at least two hours before you go to bed. Having food in our stomachs can make it hard to go to sleep because digestion does not work very well while we are sleeping and can lead to digestive problems.
  12. NIGHTTIME RITUAL: Having a routine is crucial in teaching your body when it’s time to go to sleep. If you have a nightly routine to wind down, you will teach your body to begin getting tired once you start that routine.
  13. USING NOISE MACHINES: Are you a light sleeper? Or do you find it hard to fall asleep because your mind is racing? Using white noises, ocean sounds, meditations, instrumental music, etc can help one settle their mind, allow them to fall asleep, and to block out other noises so they stay asleep.
  14. LIMIT TOSSING AND TURNING: It may seem counterintuitive, but if you are having a hard time falling asleep it is better to get up out of bed instead of tossing and turning for hours. The stress caused by not being able to fall asleep increases a stress hormone called cortisol. Once this is release it will become even harder to fall asleep. Instead, get up and do a repetitive action such as wash dishes, fold laundry, etc until you start to get sleepy and then go back to bed.

Get help

If after trying everything on your own and still not being able to go to sleep or wake up feeling refreshed, you should consult a physician. You may have an undiagnosed sleep disorder such as insomnia, sleep apnea, or restless leg syndrome. A physician is trained to help you work with these disorders to get better sleep.

Your quality of life will greatly increase by bettering your sleep habits and seeking professional help if needed. Sweet dreams!

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Neurofeedback Therapy: Treatment for ADHD, Anxiety, Traumatic Brain Injury, and More

If you’re curious about neurofeedback therapy and how it can help you, you’re not the only one. Every month thousands of people look it up in search engines. Why? Because it’s a non-invasive, non-medication therapy that works wonders.

Jessica Harper, the owner of Aspen Valley Counseling, used to get in her car and know she was going to miss the entrance of wherever she was going. Without fail, a chorus of groans sounded off in the back seat of her silver VW bug as her children cried, “Not again!” But after doing neurofeedback therapy, she hasn’t missed an entrance. “It’s pretty amazing that neurofeedback—something so simple in practice—has helped me in such a day-to-day thing.”

In a typical neurofeedback therapy session, a neurofeedback technician places electrodes on a client’s head, and then the computer program creates images on the screen that represent the client’s brain waves. The client will see their own brain activity and learn to change it, which helps them learn to manage their emotions, thoughts, and performance.

Basics of Neurofeedback Therapy

Neurofeedback therapy helps with a myriad of mental health–related issues that deal with the brain. It can help

  • ADD/ADHD
  • Trauma
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Addiction
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Phobias
  • Performance (such as for sports)
  • Autism
  • Energy Levels
  • PTSD
  • Brain Injury
  • Meditation

It’s non-invasive and doesn’t involve any medication. So if you’re looking for an alternative to medication, neurofeedback therapy could be something you might want to try.

It may seem too good to be true, but it works wonders for people! For effective treatment, a patient should attend at least 20 sessions (and at least two sessions per week) for long-term results. A patient can finish them faster by doing two sessions per day, five times per week.

If you’re on medication, you can still do neurofeedback therapy. With supervision on your doctor or provider, some people can even cut down or stop using medication after completing neurofeedback therapy.

Cost of Neurofeedback Therapy

Most insurance companies do not cover neurofeedback, since they see it as an unnecessary treatment. Western medicine is typically medication-based, so an insurance company is much more likely to cover costs of medication. But if you don’t want to take medication to improve your mental health, and you’re seeking out alternative medicine, you’re probably going to be paying out of pocket anyway.

Neurofeedback is a great option for someone looking to treat their mental health. Most neurofeedback sessions cost around $75 to $100 per session plus an extra cost for the first appointment. If you’re looking for a cheaper option and you happen to live in Utah, Aspen Valley Counseling in Orem, Utah (Utah County) charges clients $50 per session.