Along with the surge in smartphone usage, we’re in the midst of a 50-year decline in the amount of sleep people are logging each night. It’s easy to see the connection when you consider that most of us sleep either with our smartphone in bed, or right next to us.
The good news is that, while it may not be easy at first, it’s within our power to put the phone away and prioritize shut eye—and thus our mental health. But first, let’s arm ourselves with the information we need to understand why we must.
More screen time, less sleep?
· Has your smartphone been keeping you warm in bed at night? Seventy-one percent of people usually sleep with or next to their mobile phone. Further, 3 percent say they sleep with their device in their hand, 13 percent keep it on the bed, and 55 percent leave it on the nightstand.
· Your children are doing it, too: Nearly 7 in 10 children keep their mobile device either in bed or within easy reach, according to a study by Common Sense Media, with 29 percent of children actually sleeping with the device. Further, 40 percent of teens use a mobile device within five minutes of going to sleep, and 36 percent of teens wake up at least once during the night to check the device.
· But why are our phones keeping us awake? Our bodies interpret the blue light that smartphones and tablets emit as daylight. In turn, the blue light suppresses our sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin, and meddles with our sensitive 24-hour circadian rhythm. As a result, instead of preparing our bodies for sleep, screens increase alertness and delay bedtime.
· Putting your phone in “nightmode” doesn’t work either: Most phones today will offer you the option to switch to “nightmode,” or will automatically do so, switching your phone from blue light to a warm yellow light. One recent study found this kind of light may be even more detrimental to our sleep.
· In addition to the hormonal disruptions our smartphones can cause, our brains may be addicted to them. Without access to our devices, anxiety—and even panic—can build for many of us. Research shows that those of us who are more prone to be anxious about being apart from our phones are more likely to use them right up until bedtime.
· Okay, but what about all those sleep apps? All this information about the deleterious effect of smartphones on our sleep arrives at a time when sleep apps and sleep tracking devices soar in popularity. One study found that the data from these apps can be misleading, may not gauge sleep levels accurately and can cause people to become overly obsessed with the quality of their sleep.
Tips to sleep easy without your smartphone
“At night, you want to avoid bright screens,” says Dr. Robert Rosenberg, medical adviser to SoClean. “Take the television out of the bedroom if you’re a person who has insomnia; stay off of computers for at least one to two hours before you go to bed. Try to make your room as dark, quiet and comfortable as possible.”
But how? Here are some tips for kicking your smartphone out of your bedroom—or at least off of your bedside table.
· Practice creating distance from your phone during the day. Harvard Business Review suggests that we should retrain our brain’s neurotransmitters by building up to checking our phone less frequently during the day. We can also work on not reacting immediately to incoming alerts or notifications.
· Don’t use your smartphone as your alarm clock. Most of us do these days, but it’s worth your while to purchase an old-fashioned alarm clock to wake you instead.
· Keep your phone in another room at night, or at least across the room from you. That way, when insomnia strikes, you won’t be tempted to reach for your phone and start scrolling.
· Set a tech curfew. For example, create a tech-free window within an hour or two before bedtime. Even setting a half-hour curfew before turning in can be helpful. And rather than falling asleep while looking at your phone, the National Sleep Foundation suggests a more traditional pastime: reading a printed book by lamplight.
Continue reading our blog for six more ways to ensure you get a better night’s sleep in the New Year.