Lack of sleep is becoming a plague. New parents always have issues with sleep, but increasingly it’s affecting a larger portion of people. Centers for Disease Control estimates that 50-70 million adults have issues with sleep. Part of that is due to our electronics, especially our mobiles – phones, laptops and tablets, specifically.
Blue Light = Wake Up!
Unlike some animals, we are diurnal, not nocturnal. That means that light, as a general rule, is a signal to our bodies to be awake and alert. Blue light is even better at it. It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. The sky is blue, so if we can see blue light, our brains assume it must be from a daytime sky. They haven’t quite caught up to the use of cellphones yet!
So even when it’s dark out, if you’re glued to your technology, you’re basically telling your brain it’s the middle of the day. That’s not great for bedtime.
Reduced Melatonin Means Crappy Sleep
Because the light you’re exposing yourself to is really good at reducing your melatonin, most people assume that means it’s harder to fall asleep. That’s true, but it’s not the only effect. A reduction in melatonin production effects your entire sleep cycle, from shorter periods of REM sleep, delayed circadian rhythms and even increased grogginess. You literally get a cellphone hangover from using it too late at night, and that’s not fun for anyone.
Mobile Radiation Is Also a Problem
On top of the light you get from actively using your phone or iPad, you’re also getting a bit of radiation. These are generally pretty low levels, and they aren’t going to give you cancer or anything terrible like that. They will, however, contribute to a disrupted sleep pattern. You’ll probably have a harder time getting to sleep, and once you’re out, you’ll go through shorter stages of REM. Combine that with the effects of the reduced melatonin output, and you’ve got a recipe for a seriously sleepy morning.
There’s a Psychological Aspect, Too
Now that we’ve looked at the physical affects you get from too much tech, it might be interesting to look at the psychological effects. It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that many people feel pressure to be readily available now. Phones have everything on them – calls, text, email, and a myriad of other options for connecting with people.
A Swedish study found that about 25 percent of young people feel the need to be connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week by their phones. Keep in mind, they don’t feel connected to their phones, but by their phones. That means you’re probably sleeping with one ear listening for your phone. On the off chance it does go off, you’ll feel compelled to check it. Once you start interacting with it, you’ve stimulated your brain and you’ll have a harder time falling back to sleep. Whoops!
Get It Out of Your Room
If you want to combat the light, radiation and yes, even the urge to look at it, move it. Get an actual alarm clock instead of using the clock on your phone, and you can eliminate it before bed and first thing in the morning, along with any midnight interruptions.
A recent poll estimates that a whopping 65 percent of us choose to sleep with our phones, and they’re right within reach. It’s not even that we keep them in the same room, we actually keep them right by our heads. We can hear them the moment they go off, regardless of whether it’s our morning alarm or a 3 a.m. drunk text. It doesn’t need to be that close. Out with it!
Getting your cellphone out of your room at night is a great place to start, but if you really want to amp up your sleep, try to avoid all electronics before bed. Aim to work up to avoiding them for an hour before going to sleep. If you can’t get it out of your room – probably because you don’t own an alarm clock – then silence it. No sounds or lights should come from it except for your alarm.
It’s also helpful if you can leave it farther away from you at night, like on the other side of the room. You might find out that you actually are a morning person, after all.