Is my smartphone affecting my sleep?

Have you been experiencing sleep troubles? Your smartphone could be to blame!

Smartphones have become such a huge part of our lives that it can be hard to put them down, even at bedtime. Keeping your phone on your nightstand may not seem like a big deal, but the technology affects your sleep in more ways than you realize. This is even scientifically proven, with researchers suggesting that using your smartphone around the time you go to bed can impact your ability to fall asleep and leads to poor sleep quality during the night.

So, whether you’re surfing the web, replying to that urgent email, playing a video game or using your smartphone as an alarm clock late at night, this is likely causing disruption in your sleep. Here are a few ways your smartphone is having a negative effect on your snooze time.

How does the blue light on my smartphone affect my sleep?

The blue light from your smartphone or tablet has the shortest and brightest wavelength, meaning that it can intensely pierce human retinas’ photoreceptors. So, the human brain sees blue light as sunlight and therefore thinks that it’s daylight when you’re on your phone.

Furthermore, a study conducted 5 years ago by scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that blue light can suppress melatonin, the hormone that regulates the human body’s sleep-wake cycle. The study discovered that people who used tablets two hours before bed had lower levels of melatonin.

Thankfully, there are a few ways you can limit your smartphone’s blue light. Most smartphones have “night shift” settings that would adjust your phone’s screen from cool blue to warm yellow light that is less likely to keep you awake at night. You could also download apps such as Twilight or f.lux that reduce blue light. However, the best way to limit your blue light exposure is to stop using your smartphone at least 30 to 60 minutes before you go to bed.

Do smartphone activities affect my sleep?

Although the blue light doesn’t help induce sleep, the things that we do on our smartphones can disrupt our bedtime too. For example, a study discovered that games and interactions on social media cause stimulation and disrupt rest and sleep. By keeping your mind engaged, technology can trick your brain into thinking that it needs to stay awake. If you’re watching an exciting video on YouTube, seeing some happy news about your friends on Facebook or reading a stressful email from your boss, those experiences can make it hard to relax and settle into slumber.

Furthermore, just because you’re not using your smartphone before you go to bed, doesn’t mean it won’t disturb your sleep if it is resting on your nightstand. Having your mobile within an arm’s reach can disrupt your snooze time, thanks to the chimes of late-night texts, emails, calendar reminders or calls. So, to get a better night sleep, try keeping your smartphone in another room.

Apps that can improve your sleep

If, however, you prefer to keep your phone close-by on the nightstand, rather than move it to another room, you will be pleased to know it can be used to get a good night’s sleep. 

There are plenty of free apps available such as Sleep Cycle, Sleep Time and Pillow that monitor your sleep patterns. They record when you go to sleep and wake, and some also use your phone’s microphone and accelerometer (if you allow them to) to record snoring, talking in your sleep and other noises as well as tossing and turning. Based on the data they gather; these apps then provide tips and useful reminders on how to get a good sleep every night.

You can also try apps such as Calm for listening to soothing bedtime stories read by well-known voices to help you unwind and fall into a deep sleep.

Interested in the way technology can affect your health? Make sure you read our other posts on the topic: