Want To Get A Good Night’s Sleep? Then Turn Off The Computer, The iPhone And The iPad

Bedrooms used to be places of rest and recreation. In fact whatever you did in them, was going to do you some good. But that is no longer the case. More and more of us are falling victim to temptation of a different kind. We’re taking laptops, phones and other electronic devices to bed with us. And there can only be one outcome: a bad night’s sleep.

A survey of fifteen hundred people, conducted by an organization called The Sleep Health Foundation, found that almost half of them regularly looked at electronic devices in the bedroom. It means that people are not switching off figuratively and literally before going to bed particularly if they are using the device for work. The problem with these devices is they emit a blue light that, when held closely to your face, prevents your body clock from operating as it should because it stops the release of the hormone, melatonin, which signals oncoming sleep.

And falling asleep in front of the TV, even if its on the other side of the room, is just as bad because it prevents the body from self soothing so you can wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep.

Worldwide research suggests people are getting less sleep than they used to. One survey found that people were having, on average, an hour less sleep a night than they needed – about 7.3 hours when they should be getting 8.25.

There are serious health consequences to be had from not getting enough sleep. If people are poor sleepers, or they regularly have fragmented sleep, then they run a higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Having less than 7 hours sleep a night, has even been linked, in some studies, with a greater chance of being overweight or obese. But while the health effects of poor sleep are serious, sleep experts say they don’t want to worry people, especially if it scares them out of a good night’s sleep. Going to bed, worrying that you are not getting enough sleep is both ridiculous and completely the wrong thing to do.

Instead, sleep experts recommend making sure that we implement a one or two-hour buffer before going to bed to allow our bodies to wind down. According to The Sleep Health Foundation survey this is something only two-thirds of the respondents did. Which is not good.

Other tips included having a warm shower before going to bed, which allows the body to cool down more rapidly, and is yet another signal that it’s time to go to sleep.

And for the party animals who like to stay up late at night ( and I live with one) there’s bad news: playing games in front of the computer or binging on booze can actually change the way your body produces melatonin, which can catastrophically disrupt sleep patterns. Just staying in bed for longer in the morning is not the answer. According to the sleep experts, that sleep-in after a late night is actually counterproductive.  A body clock’s cycle does not quite line up with a 24-hour day. Instead, it, stretches closer to 25. This has the effect of giving us a natural incentive to want to stay up later, which is something a sleep-in only exacerbates.

On the weekends we should all try not to sleep in for more than one hour later than when we usually get up in the morning. Otherwise, by the time you get to Sunday night, your body clock might be suffering from the equivalent of jet lag. Your body is behaving as if it is physically on some other time zone, which just perpetuates the cycle of poor sleep patterns.

So, if you happen to be a family with two laptops, two smartphones, a PC, an iPad, an iPod and an assortment of old phones that your younger children use to play games on, then, according to the sleep experts, you need to establish strict rules such as a ban on using technology in their bedrooms at bedtime. 

Here are the four best tips for getting a good night’s sleep according to the experts:

1.Go to bed at a regular time, and allow wind-down time before you do.

2. Limit alcohol consumption and coffee after 2pm

3. Keep clocks out of view

4. Get up early and go out into the sun, ( a big ask in the northern hemisphere at this time of year, I know, because you don’t get much) which will help set your melatonin cycle.

Sweet dreams.

World’s First Computer From Ancient Greece Discovered In Aegean Sea

Some time ago, I first wrote about a mystery unfolding in the Aegean Sea. To be more specific an underwater area off the island of Antikythera. A mystery slowly revealing more and more of its secrets.

An extraordinary mystery that really begins in 200 BC, when a Roman ship sailed on a voyage. Where it came from and where it was going nobody knows for certain. But somewhere between Greece and Crete, it ran into a storm and sank. And for more than two thousand years the treasures it carried literally faded into history. Entombed in the sandy bottom of the ocean.

Fast forward to only 100 years ago, when a group of sponge divers make a chance discovery. They see the hand of an ancient statue protruding eerily from the silt. These sponge divers stumbled on the wreck of that ancient Roman ship. It is the largest ancient ship wreck to be discovered. Even though they could only spend a short time on the bottom, because of the depth, they still managed to collect a vast array of artefacts. It was an amazing but eclectic collection of bits and pieces: bronze and marble statues, jewellery, glass and coins. The statues were beautifully crafted and life-like despite the ravages of time and the sea. The glassware crafted to an exacting standard and brightly coloured. The treasure is the sum of many parts but not the whole. Very few items were complete. And of course that led to much speculation about what kind of ship she was. Was it a treasure ship making a delivery to a King or High Priest? Was it a plunder ship carrying the spoils and trophies of war? Or, was it just laden with an assortment of trinkets destined for sale in some distant market?

But one particular item they discovered, at first glance looked like a corroded lump of bronze cogs and wheels. Because it was bronze, it survived well in the sea but didn’t look like anything, anyone had seen before. A lot of years passed before scientists finally took a closer look to see if it could be identified.

The first job, get it X-rayed. And when they did. it looked way more complicated than first thought. There were wheels within wheels. But what exactly was it? It slowly dawned on scientists this was one of the most sophisticated devices ever discovered from ancient times. Forget about Apple and Microsoft. They were looking at the world’s first computer, an analogue computer that did calculations. As far as anyone knows, the only example of its kind anywhere in the world. But how did it work? After further examination, the scientists determined it was an ancient timepiece working as an astronomical calculator. A calculator, or mechanical device, predicting movement of stars and planets. As one astrophysicist said, the device makes mechanical what was known for centuries about astronomical cycles. These cycles predict eclipses by the moon and the sun and are used to produce workable calendars. This hand-cranked device, more than likely predicted which city would host the Olympic Games, as well as tracking movement of planets, for prophecies and religious ceremonies.

Just to put this into context. This is something built more than two thousand years ago. The kind of skill and complexity needed for manufacture would not become evident until the 14 Century. Beyond being ahead of its time, the device could well be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time. Scientists think it was built for a wealthy person, for a bit of fun.

The scientific community is very excited principally because they believe they only have half the story. Another half of the device or devices, remains on the bottom of the Aegean sea, waiting to be found. So scientists have no idea how complicated this device could potentially be, or even how many there are until they discover the rest of it. One set of gears and cogs doesn’t match the rest so there is more of the device or devices to be discovered.

But as time goes on scientists are learning more and more about what is being called the Antikythera mechanism. Some of the bronze work contains inscriptions and one word stands out. The Greek word for Cosmos. Scientists believe another metal plate may actually contain an instruction manual for using the device because it details different gear settings.

In a very recent development, scientists now say the device may be much older than first thought. The latest theory it dates from around 200 BC, and not 60 BC as first thought, which ties the device to two of history’s greatest minds, Archimedes and Hipparchus, both astronomers and mathematicians.

But one of the great ironies of this discovery is that true cutting edge technology is being invented for the express purpose of discovering the rest of this ancient example of high tech wizardry and whatever else might be lurking at the site. A $1.7 million diving suit, which acts like a wearable submarine, developed so an archaeologist can use it to explore the wreck site. There are pedals at the feet of the suit to allow the wearer to literally fly through the water powered by thrusters built into the suit’s backpack. The suit’s arms allow for free movement and instead of using their hands, archaeologists recover objects using mechanical pincers. The suit has breathing and communication systems and a carbon dioxide scrubber, which means a diver can stay at depth for long periods.

The whole expedition is costing millions of dollars, partly sponsored by a Swiss watchmaker. The Swiss are people used to dealing with complicated machinery so no surprise they are curious to know more about what makes this device tick.

So far 82 fragments of the Antikythera mechanism were recovered from the wreck. If it turns out to be some rich person’s toy it will be one the most complicated toys ever devised, a genuine forerunner of today’s modern computers. Move over Apple and Microsoft. Forget California, the first Silicon Valley was Ancient Greece.

Has The Rot Set In For Apple?

Something very serious is happening to Apple. I am not given to melodrama or overstatement. And it would be overstating by a considerable margin to describe Apple as rotten to the core. But the fruit of a once great company is looking seedy, tarnished and blighted of late. It certainly isn’t the way Steve Jobs would have done business.

Apple was once a brand synonymous with reliability and innovation. It drew in customers with its magical, consumer friendly, wizardry. Gadgets, that looked state-of-the-art, attractive and did phenomenal things. But I think it’s now safe to say the magic has left the building. It’s been replaced by one blunder after another. And the product launches, proudly proclaiming the latest innovation, are looking more like catch-up than innovation.

The company keeps doing dumb things. Firstly, there were the holes in its security you could literally drive a truck through. Hackers were able to exploit the security weakness and gain access to the private photos of celebrities. Many of the photos showed people in a state of undress. These photos were then scattered over the internet. Things got a whole lot worse for Apple when it was revealed it knew about the security hole in its system, for six months, but did nothing about it. The carefully crafted Apple image of being an impenetrable fortress where all of your very private information could be kept securely, evaporated overnight.

Then just recently, the launch of the much, hyped iPhone 6. This was touted as Apple’s answer to the market gains of its major competitor, the Korean giant Samsung. Once again a very different Apple fell from the tree literally. A technical glitch meant the live streaming of the event didn’t work. Oh my God. The old Apple would never have allowed this to happen. It would have worked flawlessly just like their products. But in keeping with all Apple announcements, there was that expect the unexpected moment: the release of the new Apple watch. This was more like the Apple of old. The kind of breakthrough innovation that Steve Jobs would have been proud to put his name to. It is a device that takes all of the shortcomings already known about these kinds of devices and fixed them in one gorgeously designed bundle. Then Apple dropped the ball completely. It did not say you can go immediately into any Apple retail and online store and buy the Apple watch. That would have got everyone excited and believing again. Instead, the watch won’t be available for six months. Talk about an anti-climax. What were they thinking?

Then Apple delivered the coup de grace. It was a PR disaster of epic proportions. I am talking about their not so great, U2 music promotion. What seemed like the most generous music giveaway in history, installing the new U2 album, Songs of Innocence, directly into the library of the company’s half a billion iTunes subscribers, very quickly turned to custard. Social media was awash with people complaining they were getting a product they didn’t want or ask for. It was meant to benefit both Apple and the band but Apple was forced into creating and releasing a tool so that iTunes customers could remove the album from their library.

The next major cock-up is something I would never have thought possible. Apple has always done very well with the release of their iPhones. So no surprise iPhone 6 and 6 plus prompted consumers to line up for days to get their hands on the new devices. But it wasn’t long before the complaints started rolling in. Some of them unjustified but others were inexcusable. There were complaints that the iPhone 6 was prone to bending. To be frank so would anything if you apply enough direct force. The second complaint was sadly all Apple’s fault. The company released a phone update that, of all things, took away the device’s fundamental feature: the ability to use it as a phone. The other key feature of iPhone 6, Touch ID also didn’t work. The old Apple would never have allowed something so fundamentally flawed to pass quality control. Maybe it was an indication of how badly Apple has slipped in its market share that it felt the need to rush the release of a product that still had major flaws in its design. Then Apple compounded what was already a disaster by releasing a software fix that didn’t fix the problem.

So where does that now leave people like me who are lovers of everything Apple? Sadly I hear a little voice inside me asking the question: Do I still want to buy this fruit?