‘Vamping’ is a term that comes from the English words ‘vampire’ (vampire, animal active at night) and ‘texting’ (sending messages) and refers to the practice, carried out mostly by teenagers, which consists in making excessive use of electronic devices such as cell phones, laptops, tablets, consoles... just before going to sleep. As a result, their rest is affected due to the reduction of the necessary hours of sleep and the effects on our body produced by the light from the screens. This phenomenon is causing many young people to suffer from early insomnia.
What is the last thing we look at before going to bed? If the answer is a cell phone, it is very likely that we will have sleep disorders and poor performance. Specialists are unequivocal in this warning to us on just how harmful screen lights are in the minutes before going to sleep. Dr. Ángela Milán, a neurologist at the Sleep Unit of the Clínica Universidad de Navarra, explains this after a study carried out in 2018, in which 625 sleep studies were performed.
The shortwave light emitted by the devices we use before going to sleep is what causes problems when using screens at that time. Our body secretes melatonin to be able to fall asleep and it does so two hours before bedtime. As the doctor warns, “if we use electronic devices with light, the brain understands that it is still daytime and does not secrete this hormone, since light stops production, so we delay the onset of sleep and sleep fewer hours. This is what we call technological insomnia.”
There are several effects on our bodies caused by the use of screens when we go to sleep. The most serious is not being able to sleep well again and not being able to rest better. But it is not the only one: ‘vamping’ has no positive effect on our body. The following are just some of the additional negative effects:
- Weith gain may be due to changes in sleep habits. Reduced melatonin levels produce metabolic alterations that increase appetite and the desire to eat sweet and fatty foods. In addition, less physical activity due to fatigue leads to a reduction in caloric expenditure, further contributing to excess weight.
- Stress. We may wake up the next day with the feeling of not having rested deeply; of not having been able to disconnect properly from the problems or situations of the previous day.
- Fatigue and physical weakness.
- Change in our personality: we become more irritable as a result of not getting enough sleep or not sleeping well.
- Problems in performing simple processes, slowness in learning, as well as a high lack of concentration in daily tasks.
- There is a strong relationship with provoked anxiety and some changes in personal behavior.
- Visual fatigue. Our tired eyes are damaged by the light from the screens and in the long term can cause problems with vision.
- Muscle and headaches due to the postures we adopt when looking at the screen while lying in bed or sitting badly on the sofa.
Recommendations for a better night's sleep
- Move the cell phone away from the bedside table; this will prevent us from repeatedly reaching for it.
- Set routines and fixed schedules that do not involve the use of technological devices, such as reading on paper, making lists of what we intend to do the next day, doing chores with the family or games for the kids, listening to relaxing music or relaxing in bed trying to leave the mind blank.
- It is good to have the habit of lying in bed for 10 minutes without doing anything, relaxed so that our brain activity knows that it is time to rest.
- Turn the wifi off at the beginning to disconnect and not be ‘tempted’ to take that ‘one 'last look”' at the cell phone.
- For younger children, parental controls can be installed to limit nighttime use of devices.
- Set a good example. Children imitate what they see in their parents, if they vamp, it is very likely that when they grow up, these children will have the same behaviors as their parents.
If all this isn’t enough to convince you to put aside the screens at a time as important as our rest, remember that a good quality of sleep prevents hypertension, strokes, heart attacks and even depression.