Smartphones May Be Undermining Your Sleep
The use of smartphones and tablets has skyrocketed in the past 5 years… and partly for good reason. Our devices link us to the world. They allow us to be connected, plugged in, and informed. At the touch of a button, we have access to pretty much all of the information in the world.
But at what cost?
Is it possible that cell phone and tablet use is also hurting us?
The Facts About Cell Phone Use
We have all heard statistics that warn us about the increasing role that technology is playing in our lives. Teens seem to be getting hit the hardest by this. According to researchers, fifty percent of teens report that they feel ‘addicted’ to their cell phones.
But according to a new study that was published in the medical journal Child Development, there may also be a link between mental health and screen-time. They said in the study findings that nighttime usage of cell phones was shown to not only increase depression and anxiety in teenagers, but that it was also causing a reduction in self-esteem.
But that’s not all. Their phones might also be causing them sleeping problems.
Do Smartphones Really Cause Sleeping Problems?
As it turns out, the answer to this question seems to be an increasingly confident ‘yes.’ And the biggest culprit here, in this specific situation, seems to be that the blue light emitted by device screens can cause sleep dysfunction.
The sun is the largest source of blue light we encounter in our day to day lives… but cell phones also emit the same type of light (as do tablets, laptops, and many other device screens). This can stimulate the brain and subconsciously cause us to believe that it is actually daytime, not nighttime—thus keeping us awake and making it more difficult for our natural sleep/wake cycle to kick in and allow us to pass out.
In one study, participants who wore special wavelength-blocking glasses for three hours before bed, while continuing their normal digital screen-time routine, had a 58% increase in natural nighttime melatonin levels.
Melatonin is the chemical that tells us that we should be going to sleep… and without it, it can be substantially more difficult to pass out and get quality rest when the time comes to lay down.
But how can you stop this problem from happening?
Some Steps You Can Take to Avoid Blue Light and Sleep Better
One obvious step that we could take in an attempt to improve our quality of rest is to just avoid using our screens altogether in the two hours or so before we are supposed to go to sleep.
For some, however, this might not seem practical.
For those of us who simply must continue to use our technology up until the time comes to go to sleep, there are blue-blocking glasses on the market. There are also films/screens that you can install on your screens that help to filter out blue light.
While these solutions are not perfect, and not as effective perhaps as avoiding your device screens altogether, they can help.
Turning down the brightness of your screens can also help.
One interesting thing to note is that blue-blocking glasses can help you even if you don’t look at computer screens. Shift workers sometimes use them a few hours before bedtime anyway, to filter out blue light that they can’t really avoid (either from the sun or from devices around us that we cannot control).
At any rate, the important thing here is awareness. If we can be aware of the things that are potentially causing us problems with our sleep, and then fix them… we might have a better shot at getting the kind of rest we need in order to stay happy, healthy, and sane.