According to our recent survey results, more than half of you sleep with your phone in bed with you at least some of the time. Among those who answered “No”, some still indicated that they left their phone on a bedside table near or next to the bed. Well, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but no case is good for your health. Whether you’re an adult or a teenager, plenty of research supports that you don’t have your phone near your bed.
Now I know I’m not your mother. I can’t tell you what to do with your life, and I wouldn’t either. But I can bring peer-reviewed research to your attention for you to then review and decide what to do. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, suffer from insomnia, or can’t stay awake during the day, there’s solid data to suggest your phone might be the culprit.
For example, a systemic review of 20 studies demonstrated strong and consistent evidence for an association between access to or use of electronic devices at bedtime and reduced sleep quantity and quality, as well as than an increase in daytime sleepiness. This means that if your phone is within easy reach of your bed, you’re more likely to sleep less soundly and for shorter periods of time. Ultimately, this impacts your cognitive performance during the day. To be clear, these results occurred even though the participants weren’t using their phones in bed. The mere presence of a telephone in the bedroom increased the risk of sleep disturbances.
Phones and sleep: a match made in hell
Gary Sims/Android Authority
Sleep is vital for our mental and physical health and especially for the biopsychosocial development of children. Because portable mobile and multimedia devices have become a ubiquitous part of our waking life, the impact on our quality of sleep is therefore of concern. For many of us, our smartphone is the last thing we use before we fall asleep at night and the first thing we check when we wake up. This habitual cycle, while difficult to break, is anything but beneficial for our sleep hygiene and, by extension, our mental and physical health.
The usual cycle of using our phones until we fall asleep and checking them as soon as we wake up is anything but helpful for our sleep hygiene.
Tweens are the hardest hit, with those as young as ten losing eight to nine hours of sleep a week. Granted, this study had a relatively small sample size, but it’s one of the first to look in depth at how sites such as TikTok and Instagram instill a “fear of missing out” in children among their peers. Social media has moved the social environment from school grounds to our children’s bedrooms, and it’s open 24/7, with peak hours of operation at night.
A negative consequence of lack of sleep is that it contributes to depression. Data measured on hundreds of teens found that those who used social media heavily before bedtime experienced greater difficulty sleeping, which was strongly correlated with higher levels of depression. So there’s kind of a chain reaction where teens who stay up at night on their phones end up losing sleep, leading to more depressive symptoms. It can also lead to poorer academic performance among students.
Social media has migrated the social environment from the school compound to our children’s bedrooms, and it is open 24/7.
See the chart below for more long-term effects of sleep deprivation on your body.
But it’s not just children and teenagers; studies have shown that cell phone use at bedtime is also negatively related to sleep outcomes in adults. Specifically, one study found that increased cell phone use at bedtime was associated with increased fatigue and longer sleep in adults in their 40s. It was also linked to earlier rise time and shorter sleep duration in adults in their 60s. Time will tell if these effects are compounded by the continued nighttime tech habits of today’s youth.
What is the solution ?
Andy Walker / Android Authority
Hearing these concerns, some companies have implemented specific settings to optimize phones for nighttime use. However, research has shown that Apple’s iPhone Night Shift mode did nothing to improve the sleep quality of the 167 participants. Abstaining from using the screen ultimately resulted in better quality sleep than using the phone with Night Shift enabled. Given these results, there’s not much reason to think that equivalent Android features, such as Samsung’s Bedtime Mode, would be any better.
Blue light filters can lessen some of the harmful effects, but not entirely.
So why does sleeping with our phones cause such negative effects? For starters, the blue light from your cell phone screen delays the release of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle (aka circadian rhythm). Blue light filters can partially mitigate these effects, but not completely. Second, consider how you interact with your mobile devices. It’s not just screen glow that interrupts your sleep. Software and apps are increasingly designed to stimulate your mind and hold your attention for as long as possible. As soon as your phone beeps or vibrates, you’re tempted to check it in case it’s something important — all the more reason to manage your notification permissions. Finally, there are concerns about the effects of phone radiation, not only in terms of the impact on sleep quality but also on other aspects of health, but this is an area of ongoing research.
The good news is that research shows that it only takes a month to reverse the aforementioned negative effects and improve your sleep quality. Limiting cell phone use before bedtime for four weeks can effectively reduce sleep latency, increase sleep duration, improve sleep quality, reduce wakefulness before sleep (elevated heart rate and inability to stop thinking ) and improve positive affect (the propensity to experience positive emotions) and working memory (a cognitive process essential for reasoning and decision-making).
It only takes four weeks of limiting phone use before bed to get your sleep cycle back on track.
Giving your body the sleep it needs is an essential part of maintaining your overall mental and physical health, and that can mean managing your phone habits. Resisting the temptation to use your phone for two hours before bed can go a long way. If you don’t sleep well and sleep with your phone in or near the bed, would you be willing to cut back on your phone use when the sun goes down and leave your phone in another room overnight? You might be grateful you did.
If you want to get a good night’s sleep, you need to keep your phone in a separate room from where you sleep. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say.
Yes, numerous studies have conclusively shown that sleeping with your phone shortens your sleep duration, sleep depth, and increases daytime sleepiness.
So far, there is no evidence to suggest that cell phone use causes brain cancer or other types of cancer in humans. However, this is an area of ongoing research.
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