Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ditch the GPS for a Good Night's Sleep

As published in The Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, August 19, 2015 by Sara Jewell.

           Driving to Truro at the end of July, the final story of the six o’clock news on the radio caught my attention. It was about the launch of the new Windows 10 operating system, a system Microsoft has created to work across all platforms: desktop, phone and tablet.
            My reaction to this story was to think, How far behind am I getting when it comes to being plugged in?
I don’t have a smart phone. I carry a flip phone in my purse that is rarely turned on; my tablet is used only for the Skype program, and I’m typing this column on a desktop computer.
I’ve never sent a text.
            Given all the other stuff that’s going on in our world, this may seem like a silly thing to worry about but is the day coming when I won’t have a clue how to work anything?
            There is no denying that soon, every aspect of our lives will be run by a device attached in some way to our bodies. Beyond remotes and timers and cars parking themselves, I’m talking about a time when everything we do, right down to breathing, is controlled by a tiny computer on, or perhaps implanted in, our wrist.
            But wait, that time is already upon us. We already wear devices that count steps and heart beats and calories, cars that run without a key and on voice command, and eye glasses that project information and analyze a situation on the inside of the lens.
            I’m worried I will wake up one day and not have a clue what anyone is talking about. Or how they are talking about it. Or how to make myself a cup of coffee or flush my toilet. There won’t even be an app for that because someone will have come up with a new concept I won’t even know about.
Admittedly, my resistance to keeping up with new technology has been deliberate. Part of me is not interested in gadgets but a bigger part of me has a stubborn streak that mutters, “You can’t tell me what to do.”
That stubborn streak grows stronger every time a car pulls into our country road and drives past the “No Exit” sign despite the fact they are now driving on a dirt lane. But the GPS says this is the way to Linden so they’ll keep driving until it becomes obvious to their own eyes that this is the wrong way.
            That moment gives me hope: Somewhere in their googled brain, they still possess the ability to think for themselves, to solve a problem based on the evidence in front of them, and make a decision. Without checking an electronic device.
            The funny thing is that those misdirected drivers are actually going in the right direction. For a moment, however brief, they have tuned into the world around them and used their senses to live their life. If they kept driving into the woods, they’d be doing themselves a real favour.
In 2013, researchers at the University of Colorado discovered that one week of camping, without electronics, resets our biological body clock and synchronizes our system with sunrise and sunset. The result is a good night’s sleep.  
Electronics disrupt our natural circadian rhythms. We stay up too late, we spend too much time staring at a lighted screen, we don’t give our brains a chance to rest. The result is a chronic sleep deprivation and really, what is the most common lament of the 21st century working person?
“I’d give anything for a good night’s sleep.”
It’s time to consider ditching the GPS and turning off the smarter-than-you phone, and following your senses down a long dirt lane to spend seven nights lying out beneath the stars noticing that the universe is a whole lot bigger, and brighter, than a screen.  

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