Is your bedroom an office?

2011-06-24 10:24

This is the Dennehys’ routine. At night, after the kids are asleep, Julie heads to the bedroom. She turns off the light, but turns on her iPhone to write her parenting blog and check emails. When Tim, a police officer, returns home, they check in with each other and then each is off – on their hand-helds. He reads her blog, emails, chats with friends on Facebook.

Sometimes, they don’t drift off to sleep until 2am or 3am.

“I’ve actually fallen asleep with the iPhone dropped in my bed somewhere,’’ says Julie, 42, who owns a public relations firm.

“Technology is so enabling, but it’s also so addictive.’’

The Dennehys are hardly alone in their nocturnal habits. Many who have donned their pajamas and got into bed hear and heed the siren call of laptops and cellphones on the bedside table.

For many, the line between work and home no longer exists. Others simply cannot stay away from social media.

But experts say it’s not a good idea to turn your bedroom into your office. Sleep – or lack thereof – is the main reason.

Dr Michael Biber, director of the Neurocare Center for Sleep in Newton, Massachusetts, says that being exposed to light – overhead, or from a computer – before going to bed can thwart the release of melatonin, which throws off the circadian rhythm that dictates sleep.

And being online can add stress or alertness that is not conducive to falling asleep.

“If someone is ruminating, planning, organising, it’s incompatible with sleep,’’ says Biber. “People should avoid activities that are energising.’’

Karl Stier blames himself for his dilemma. Five years ago, when he started his communications company, he tried to set himself apart by telling clients they could reach him any time – day or night. And they do. He keeps an iPad, iPhone and laptop handy.

“They will text me at 10pm. I’ll get emails, I’ll get phone calls. It’s not only annoying, it has taken a toll on me,’’ says Stier, who is 50.

Rebekah Kaufman works two shifts. There’s her day job as a consultant to NGOs. And then at night, after dinner and dog walks, she heads up to the bedroom.

But it’s not for sleep – not yet. At about 10pm until the wee hours, she opens her laptop for the online business she founded, collecting and selling antique German Steiff teddy bears to clients across the world, and the blog she writes about rare speciality bears.

Her husband, Marc, a brain researcher at McLean Hospital, who is right next to her, taps away on his own blog about drug dependence and its effect on the brain.

Around midnight, the laptops are shut down – it’s the bright light – and the hand-helds come out: an iPhone for her, an iTouch for him. They may work for another hour before drifting off. Luckily, neither has trouble falling asleep, she says.

“We’re not stressed; we’re blogging on things we’re passionate about,’’ she says. “We’re exhausted by the time we go to sleep.’’

But wee-hour workaholics can take some comfort. Even if you’re working in bed at night, says Biber, it’s not always a bad thing.

“Some work can be boring and actually promotes sleep.’’ – Boston Globe

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