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Do Smartphones Sabotage Sleep?

Why Sleeping With Your Phone Might be a Bad Idea

Not many people are in the habit of drinking coffee before bed for fear of tossing and turning. But the more common habit of checking your phone or tablet before bed may be just as disruptive to sleep patterns as the jolt you’d get from all that caffeine.

While caffeine’s effects on delaying sleep are widely known, it may be surprising to learn that the effects of your favorite technology are approximately twice as harmful as an evening cup of Joe.

Blue Light Technology

Smartphones, tablets and laptops all emit bright blue light so you can see them even when it’s sunny. The problem is that blue light could be keeping you up at night by suppressing your brain’s production of melatonin, a hormone that helps with sleep timing and circadian rhythms.

Blue light isn’t new, but in nature it is most abundant in the morning hours, which signals the brain it’s time to wake up and be alert. On the other hand, red light, which is emitted when the sun sets, signals that it is time to go to sleep.

When you use smartphones and other blue-light-emitting technology, like laptops or tablets, right before bed, your body’s cues to go to sleep are delayed. This, in turn, throws off your natural sleep-wake cycles.

The Health Risks

Feeling groggy isn’t the only negative affect of losing sleep from tech toys like smartphones. Night time light, and the poor sleep associated with it, has been linked to various health risks, including:

  • Mood problems, including anxiety and depression
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Impaired memory and ability to learn
  • Heart attack
  • Obesity and type-2 diabetes
  • Various cancers

What You Can Do

While ditching all technology after the sun sets might not be an option for many people, there are little things you can do to limit your exposure to blue light in the evenings and sleep better.

  • Avoid your smartphone, tablet or laptop beginning two to three hours before bed. If you use your phone as an alarm clock, set it once and keep it out of reach from your bed.
  • Use orange or red reading lamps for night lights.
  • Keep your bedroom completely dark, or use a sleep mask.
  • Expose yourself to natural light as much as you can throughout the day. This can help you stay alert during the day and increase your ability to sleep at night.