Your Phone May Be Interfering with Your Good Night's Sleep
Chances are, you sleep with your phone close by your bed in case of boredom, the urgent phone call, or a quick Google to answer a question. You probably also spend your last few minutes before shut-eye browsing your phone and updating yourself on anything you may have missed throughout the day. How well do you usually sleep? Science is now telling us there is a connection between your phone and your sleeping habits. As it turns out, checking your phone before bed and keeping it close by may be damaging to your sleeping patterns, because of the light emitted by your phone’s screen.
All artificial light (that means LEDs, fluorescent bulbs, and incandescent bulbs) interrupt normal sleeping patterns. LED lights are frequently used because they happen to be more energy efficient and provide better lighting than your average incandescent light bulbs. They are also present in your phone.
To understand why this is bad for your sleeping habits, you must first understand how your body works. Your body’s natural biological clock is set in motion by the amount of light and dark you are exposed to, called the circadian rhythm.The circadian rhythm of your body also has the ability to control many other physiological processes, or many other individual clocks, like sleeping and feeding patterns, brain activity, hormone production, and cell regeneration. Light is the most powerful cue for shifting the phase of these rhythms.
Natural light stimulates your retinas, which send a signal to the hypothalamus in your brain, telling it to set sleeping patterns according to perceived “daytime (sunlight)” and “nighttime” (no sunlight). When it starts to get dark, your brain gets another signal from the hypothalamus that tells it to start creating sleep hormones, like melatonin, and prepare for sleep in other ways like dropping your body temperature. When light is sensed in the morning, your body gets the signal to warm up and produce hormones that wake your body up. This is how a normal circadian rhythm should work.
So now that we know how your body naturally works, what’s the deal with phones?
Artificial light, blue LED light specifically, has a substantial effect on shifting these phases and melatonin suppression. Artificial light confuses your body’s natural circadian rhythms. Since your retinas are receiving light all throughout the day, not just during sunlight hours, your body is unsure about when to prepare for sleep.
Guess what produces huge amount of blue light? Phones, tablets, TVs — everything you probably use right before bed. This blue light specifically suppresses melatonin more than any other type of light. This is due to the short wavelengths in blue light, which the human body is far more sensitive to than any other type of wavelength. Studies have found this does two disastrous things: suppress delta brainwaves (which induce sleep), and boost alpha wavelengths (which create alertness).
So what are we saying, that you have to stop using your phone or limit your time around artificial lighting to get a good night’s sleep? Not exactly, especially since in today’s day and age it would be near impossible to do that. There are some small steps you can take to improve your sleep, though.
For one, you can stop using your phone 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. This will remove most of the blue light that interrupts your sleep. We know it sounds pretty difficult, but before mobile phones became so prominent in our lives, people had many other bedtime rituals that helped them to settle into their slumber. Try reading a book (not an e-book!) or making yourself a cup of tea to wind down. A dimly lit environment with no blue light will signal your body to start getting ready for sleep and produce melatonin that will begin to diminish your wakefulness. If you absolutely must use your phone, turn your brightness all the way down to limit the intensity of the blue light. These small steps may help you to improve your sleep, which can lead to bettering your overall health.
- Shannon Kaszuba