Sleep is an essential part of our development and wellbeing. It is important for learning and memory, emotions and behaviours, and our health more generally. Yet the total amount of sleep that children and adolescents are getting is continuing to decrease. Why?
Although there are potentially many reasons behind this trend, it is emerging that screen time – by way of watching television or using computers, mobile phones and other electronic mobile devices – may be having a large and negative impact on children’s sleep.
It has also been suggested that longer screen times may be affecting sleep by reducing the time spent doing other activities – such as exercise – that may be beneficial for sleep and sleep regulation.
Screen time in the hours directly prior to sleep is problematic in a number of ways other than just displacing the bed and sleep times of children and adolescents. The content of the screen time, as well as the light that these devices emit, may also be responsible for poorer sleep.
The content, or what we are actually engaging with on the screen, can be detrimental to sleep. For example, exciting video games, dramatic or scary television shows, or even stimulating phone conversations can engage the brain and lead to the release of hormones such as adrenaline. This can in turn make it more difficult to fall asleep or maintain sleep.
The number of devices and amount of screen time children and adolescents are exposed to is continually increasing. Given these early associations with reduced sleep quality, and the importance of sleep in healthy development and ageing, this is an issue that is not likely to go away any time soon.
Sleep should be made a priority, and we can combat this growing problem in a number of ways.
They’re radically different. Tufte advocates simple data visualisations with a maximum data-to-ink ratio. Holmes likes to add visual elements, pictures and illustrations onto charts, which Tufte calls “chartjunk”. You’ll have noticed the striking difference between these two competing schools when you upgraded your iPhone from the Holmes-inspired, skeuomorphic iOS 6 to the Tufte-inspired, clear and minimalist iOS 7.
Clearly, the Tufte-inspired version on the right looks much better.
Here is a simple introduction to minimalist Tufte design:
I’m on the side of Tufte here. I like complicated data visualised in a simple-looking graphic. Looking back at the graphics I made last summer, I decided to update the Mineral Water Composition chart I made last year according to Tufte’s design philosophy.
Here’s the new, Tufte-inspired version:
And here’s the old Holmes-inspired version I made a year ago:
Tour of the solar system with “gravity” as its theme 362 pages, ★★★★
Watching the film”Gravity” at the cinema renewed in me a love of Physics. I downloaded the iPhone game (which is very good!) and then searched for more physics-related books and apps. Two of the best physics iPad apps are Star Walk and Solar Walk. They’re both rated five stars, both cost $2.99 and both are pictured below.
Disturbing the Solar System was the book equivalent of these amazing iPad apps. It tours the solar system, including moons and asteroids, and focusses on the collisions and orbits that helped to for the solar system we live in today.
Two interesting observations stood out. First was the story of Titius and Bode’s Law on page 100. Bode’s Law states that the orbital distances of all the planets between (and including) Mercury and Uranus follow a pattern:
(where a is the semi-major axis of each planet in astronomical units and m is a positive integer).
Second was the role of the moon in stabilising Earth’s climate. The book explains that without the moon, our planet’s axis would wobble wildly every million years or so resulting in unstable climates that wouldn’t allow sufficient time for adaption by natural selection. Without our moon, the author argues, evolution on Earth would have been thwarted and humans might even have not existed!
Disturbing the Solar System an interesting read and is a perfect companion to the incredible iPad apps that I mentioned earlier. Use them in tandem so you can ‘see’ what you’re reading about. Recommended for anyone interested in the solar system. (For anyone less interested, just get the apps!) ★★★★
I spent the afternoon at the truly Chinese Taoranting Park, Beijing. “Truly Chinese” here means lakes, pagodas, few people, no vendors, and, until the end of this week, a multi-ethnic cultural festival. A Little Planet picture captures the balance and natural symmetry of this park perfectly. Subway Line 4, 陶然亭公园. Entrance is just ¥2.5.
Alongside the park is an exotic fish, reptile and plant market: a cheap place to fill the house with pot-plants.