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A consultant rheumatologist at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital is urging people to put down their phones and create phone free zones in the home in order to improve their mental health and well-being.

Dr Martin Lee, who works closely with adolescent and young adult patients, has become so concerned about the impact of Smartphone Overuse Syndrome (SOS) amongst young people in particular that he haskick started a campaign to encourage teenagers to put down their phones.

He has set up a dedicated website (www.nophonezone.co.uk) and developed a parenting aid that allows us to create phone free areas within our homes.

He is also urging the government to help tackle the issue and has written directly to Prime Minister Theresa May to ask that schools across the country teach the importance of sleep hygiene and the potential effects of smartphone use at bedtime as part of their lessons in online safety.

Over the past 12 months the consultant who lives Tynemouth with his wife and young baby, has become increasingly alarmed by the growing number of his patients experiencing sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, mood disorders and heightened pain levels, as a result of SOS. 

Dr Lee’s website and associated parenting aids have been designed to encourage families to collectively tackle the over use of smart phones and create No Phone Zones within the home to promote a better night’s sleep.

Part of his solution is the creation of a simple No Phone Zone canvas drawstring bag which can be hung easily to any door-handle with a convenient side zipper to serve as a poignant visual reminder to put the phone down when entering certain areas of the home.

Dr Lee said: “A recent survey conducted by Digital Awareness UK of 2,750 school-aged pupils revealed that almost half of teenagers checked their mobile devices during the night – 23% of these checked their mobile device more than 10 times per night! A staggering 68% of students said that using their mobile devices at night affected their schoolwork and a quarter of students said that they feel tired during the day because of their nocturnal smartphone use.

“These statistics are quite frightening and numerous medical studies have demonstrated a direct correlation between increased smartphone use and poorer sleep patterns which we now know to be a major cause of mental health disorders, depression and anxiety.

“I became particularly concerned about the worrying overuse of smart phones during the night because of the impact SOS was having on my patients’ pain levels.  A regular, undisturbed sleep pattern is a hugely important part of the pain management process and more and more of my young patients were reporting increased levels of pain which is when I decided to examine the issue more closely and was alarmed by my findings.”

He added: “There is definitely a time and a place for technology and I know both professionally and personally that it brings huge benefits and has improved many aspects of our day to day life, but we simply cannot allow technology to interfere with our basic need for sleep.

“I’m confident that No Phone Zone will go some way to helping us to tackle this ticking time bomb, encouraging us all to put down our phones at certain times of the day and within certain rooms in the home.”

No Phone Zone has received support from Alan Campbell MP and North Tyneside Council’s Business Factory.  The enterprise program provides help and advice to both new and existing businesses in North Tyneside through a range of workshops, seminars and one to one support.

The No Phone Zone bag is available to purchase online at www.nophonezone.co.uk

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