Cell Phones and Insomnia

If you’ve been having more trouble falling asleep in the past few years, your smartphone may be to blame. I get it, it’s tempting to play around on the phone, check email one last time, or scroll through your favorite social media app while you’re lying in bed. It’s become part of the bedtime routine for many of us. We think it’s relaxing and a nice way to unwind after a long and busy day.

Unfortunately, they may be the reason why we have such a hard time getting enough quality sleep.

Mobile devices can disrupt our sleep and lead to insomnia in 3 different ways.

  1. Checking emails before going to sleep or catching up on the latest news or chatter may seem harmless, but it engages our brains and keeps us thinking and possibly worrying about what we just read. In short, the simple act of engaging with the apps and content of your phone is tricking the brain into thinking that it isn’t quite time for bed yet. This isn’t conductive to slowing down, relaxing, and being able to drift off into sleep. Consider postponing that email check until morning when you are refreshed and able to deal with whatever comes up.
  2. Next having a mobile device charging on your night stand can lead to waking throughout the night. You may not even become fully aware of just how distracting the various notification alerts can be until you complete turn your phone off and leave it in the other room. Even if your phone is set to silent, the blinking alerts and changes in light can be enough to disrupt your sleep patterns. We won’t even mention the possibly harmful effects of Wi-Fi and cell phone signals.
  3. Last but not least, it’s time to address the biggest culprit when it comes to the connection between mobile devices and sleep issues. It’s the light that these devices emit. In particular, the blue light coming off the screen and hitting the back of your eyes trick your body into thinking it’s daytime. This in turn blocks the release of melatonin and messes with the day and night rhythm. In short, your body things it’s daytime.

Since we tend to have our mobile screens much closer to our eyes than say a TV or even a computer monitor, the effects are particularly powerful. While turning your phone off an hour or two before bed is your best course of action, this isn’t feasible for everyone. Maybe you’re enjoying playing around on your phone while winding down too much. In those cases, changing the display to a dimmer screen that filters out most of the blue light will help. Some phones have this as an option, or you can download one of the many apps that will “dim the light” during nighttime hours.

Try it and see if it helps you sleep better. Even better, come up with a nighttime ritual that doesn’t involve your phone and leave it in the living room.

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