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'Overuse of technology can lead to semi-somnia'

Nov 26, 2012 13:31 IST

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London: A growing number of people are now suffering from a newly identified sleep disorder called 'semi-somnia' triggered by stress and technology use, sleep experts say.

Rather than totally sleepless nights, sufferers of semi-somnia experience short bouts of sleep disruption — perhaps on particularly busy or stressful days, experts claim.

An Indian-origin expert has even coined a phrase 'fizzy sleep' to explain sleep difficulties faced by sufferers.

"It's not a scientific term, but clients say that's what their head feels like. They are asleep but it's not restful.

It's a jangly, information-filled sleep where the brain is still highly active," said Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a sleep coach at London's Capio Nightingale hospital, and author of the book Tired But Wired.

Pic used for representational purposes only. Reuters.

The condition is being called insomnia's irritating little sister, but despite not sharing the full agonising symptoms of acute sleeplessness — which has been linked to weakened immune systems, depression, high blood pressure and even heart disease —semi-somnia is far from harmless, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

Victims may wake every night for 30 minutes, or find it impossible to sleep for an hour because their minds are racing.

Experts are of the opinion that semi-somnia started plaguing people now because of excessive use of technology.

"We've spent five years researching this with 30,000 sufferers and technology is probably the main cause," said Jean Gomes, chairman of The Energy Project— a consultancy to help people counteract tiredness issues.

"You may have had a stressful day, but your mind could process problems overnight and you'd wake the next day refreshed. Now the ways we relax —shopping online, tweeting while watching television and checking Facebook— mean our brains are in a permanent state of arousal. When bedtime comes around, this can cause big problems," Gomes said.

For people to sleep, three main things happen: the decline in light triggers the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, our temperature starts to fall and our mind and body relax, allowing our nervous system to switch off. Using technology interferes with each of those steps, experts believe.

Sleep is when the mind processes the information we've taken in throughout the day, but the huge amount of material people now consume online can simply be too much to deal with.

"The part of the brain that deals with information processing is relatively small—and it can't cope with the sheer amount of input it's getting now," said Ramlakhan.

"Take information "minibreaks" every 90 minutes through the day to give your mind some space. Drink lots of water. Your bladder will then force you to take a time out —and don't take your phone to the bathroom with you," she suggested.

PTI