Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Placing a Cell Phone Near Your Ear Could be Fatal

LONDON (Reuters) - Using a mobile phone may increase the risk of certain types of brain cancer in humans and consumers should consider ways of reducing their exposure, World Health Organization (WHO) cancer experts said on Tuesday.

A working group of 21 scientists from 14 countries meeting at the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said a review of all the available scientific evidence suggested cell phone use should be classified as "possibly carcinogenic."

(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Mark Heinrich)

Using Your IPad or Playbook May Disrupt Sleeping Habits

By Dr. James Aw

My first encounter with technology’s ability to affect sleep happened when I was an intern on my first surgical rotation, which included frequent 24-hour shifts. To allow interns like me to catch a few hours rest, the hospital gave us pagers. I toted the little black plastic box into the call room, flopped down on a cot and closed my eyes. But I couldn’t sleep. Was the pager about to beep? What if I slept through it? The mere presence of the technology induced such anxiety that I couldn’t drift off.

I wasn’t controlling the device; the device was controlling me. Something similar seems to be happening with today’s tablet computers. The portability of Apple’s iPad and Research in Motion’s PlayBook encourages us to take the tablet with us to bed. Many of us have replaced a good book with the iPad as the last media our eyes meet before dark. A U.S. poll released in March by the National Sleep Foundation estimated that 61% of people used some form of computer a few nights a week in the hour before bed. In fact, nearly half of adults in their twenties surfed the Internet every night, or almost every night, within the hour they went to sleep.

All that computer use may be harming our ability to perform the mental switch-off sleep requires — which could make us less productive and more irritable during the day.

Dr. Michael Gradisar is a psychology professor at Australia’s Flinders University and an expert on the sleep effects of interactive media. His research indicates that passive media — classically, books — are good for lulling us to sleep. But Gradisar says more interactive media, such as video games, cellphones or Web-browsing devices, “are more alerting and disrupt the sleep-onset process.”

One of the most comprehensive studies I was able to find about this was a Belgian study published in 2006 in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. Based on a survey of 2,546 children in Grades 7 and 10, the study investigated media use as a sleep aid and how it related to fatigue. Respondents who said they used as sleep aids such activities as television-watching, computer-gaming and music-listening each reported decreased number of hours of sleep per week and increased self-reported levels of tiredness.

Disturbed sleep patterns may lead to daytime sleepiness, poor school results and behaviour problems for children. Other studies have shown children’s poor sleep patterns can carry over into adulthood. Interestingly, reading books in bed did not negatively affect sleep. “Although the respondents report using television, computer games and music as a sleeping aid,” the researchers noted, “the results suggest that there is no reason to assume that these media are really helping them sleep.”

Several theories attempt to explain how bedroom media use affects sleep patterns. The “displacement” hypothesis suggests that time spent consuming media displaces time spent conducting other activities, such as sleeping. Another theory suggests interactive media creates a state of hyper-arousal and cognitive stimulation just as we’re supposed to be winding down. Dealing with work-related email before bed, or in bed, also can lead to sleep-delaying cognitive stimulation. Finally, lying in bed with a multimedia device can cause such ergonomic challenges as neck and arm strain if the activity is not conducted in a comfortable position.

“Ah,” says the diehard iPad user. “At night, I only use the iPad to read e-books. That’s OK, right?” Maybe not. Darkness is an important component in the circadian rhythm that sees us transition from sleep to wakefulness and back again. That’s because darkness triggers the pineal gland’s production of melatonin, a hormone that suppresses body temperature and heart rate and in general promotes sleep. A growing body of research indicates the sort of light projected from backlit computer screens could be enough to suppress melatonin production, in turn disrupting our natural circadian rhythms.

The effect may be strengthened when the computer display is held as close to the face as iPads and PlayBooks tend to be. For example, a Swiss-German study published in March in the Journal of Applied Physiology established that exposure to light from a backlit LED computer screen prolonged wakefulness even over non-LED screens. (The test was conducted with a Hewlett-Packard screen. Apple’s iPad also has an LED screen.) Interestingly, dedicated e-book readers such as the Kobo or the Kindle, which are not backlit and do not function as light sources, probably wouldn’t create this effect.

I’m not criticizing the use of tablet computers. I think mine is great. Studies have shown the media they store can promote health — from humorous TV shows and clips that help people deal with stress and depression to video games helping children deal with the pain of severe burns. They’ve also been shown to assist in stroke rehabilitation.

But we’re fooling ourselves if we think tablet computers work as sleep aids. The general rule? If you’re serious about your night’s sleep, leave technology outside the bedroom. No TV, no video games, certainly no tablet computer. Instead, protect the bedroom as a sanctuary. Treat it as your space to restore, relax and recharge the old-fashioned way, with soothing bedtime activities, such as a great book, which can ease the body’s transition into a long night of calm and rejuvenating sleep.

• Dr. James Aw is the medical director of the Medcan Clinic, a leading private health clinic in Toronto. For more information, visit medcan.com.

Special to National Post May 31, 2011 – 7:00 AM ET | Last Updated: May 30, 2011 6:00 PM ET


Monday, May 30, 2011

What areTexting Websites?

Texting from a laptop or desk top computer is safer than texting and driving plus it can prevent you from being fired from work if your boss catches you sending and receiving text message while on the company's clock.

Text messaging, or texting is the common term for the sending of "short" (160 characters or fewer, including spaces, newer phones can hold up to 20 pages of 160 characters) text messages from mobile phones using the Short Message Service (SMS). It is available on most digital mobile phones and some personal digital assistants with on-board wireless telecommunications. The individual messages which are sent are called text messages or, more colloquially, texts or SMS.

Stay in touch with your kids and friends while you work on your computer by using an online free texting service such as www.txt2day.com.

SMS gateways are to connect mobile SMS services with instant message (IM) services, the world wide web, desktop computers, and even landline telephones (through speech synthesis). Devices which can connect to mobile phones and PDAs through protocols such as Bluetooth can also sometimes use that link to send SMS messages over the wireless network. SMS arose as part of the widely deployed GSM protocol, but is now also available with non-GSM systems.

The most common application of the service is person-to-person messaging, but text messages are also often used to interact with automated systems, such as ordering products and services for mobile phones, or participating in contests. There are some services available on the Internet that allow users to send text messages free of direct charge to the sender.

India Youth Addicted To Texting

New Delhi, May 18 (IANS) As telecom companies try to outdo each other with attractive and cheap SMS plans offering hundreds of free messages daily, it has transformed the communication patterns of youngsters in India, with 60 percent of those surveyed choosing it as the preferred mode of communication, an industry lobby said Wednesday.

‘Communication patterns of young India’ was conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) between January and April and 2,000 youngsters from 12 to 20 years of age were interviewed in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Patna and others, with Delhi topping the list.

‘Nearly 70 percent of Delhi’s youngsters prefer messaging over other forms of communication like face-to-face conversations, voice calling, social networking, instant messaging and e-mailing, whereas the national figure stands at 60 percent,’ said the survey.

According to the survey, while 70 percent of youngsters in Delhi send and receive between 100 to 125 text messages daily and over 3,000 texts each month while another 15 per cent are texting 75 to 100 messages daily. Around 50 messages are exchanged daily by 10 percent and meagre five percent respondents said that they send around 30 to 40 texts daily.

‘Sending and receiving text messages has become primary means of communication, so much so that excessive texting has become an obsession amongst youngsters,’ D.S. Rawat, Secretary General, ASSOCHAM.

‘But, excessive texting is leading to a number of problems as they are developing problems like insomnia, depression, lack of eating, isolation etc. Besides, according to reports of chamber’s analysis prolonged engagement with such an activity can lead to diseases like brain tumor and infertility,’ added Rawat.

But the youngsters opined that texting was a more secretive form of communication as it can be carried out under the nose of their parents, teachers, guardians and other figures in authority and was an economical option too, said the survey.

Alarmingly, around 60 percent of youngsters admitted that they text while driving, considering it multi-tasking.

‘It’s a disturbing fact as the risk of a car crash increases by 30 times in case of texting while driving, as drivers typically take their eyes off from the road for nearly 5 seconds to send or receive text messages,’ said the survey.

Nearly 90 percent slept with the phone next to them and were suffering from insomnia. A majority of the respondents admitted that they are often awakened by a phone call or a text message after going to bed and the lack of sleep has been affecting their work and progress.

‘Around 80 percent the city said that they check their phones every few seconds to see if they have received any message and due to constant fast typing on the cellphone’s keypad, at times they feel severe pain in area between thumb & wrist which throbs constantly.’

According to the ASSOCHAM analysis, the popularity of text messaging in India has risen dramatically as compared to 2006 when a youngster on an average used to send around 5-10 text messages daily as there were not enough of cheap messaging deals provided by telecom companies. This has risen to almost 125 text messages per day during the course of the last five years.