That phone on your nightstand is not as innocent as you might think. Being used at work, in the car, at home, and even in bed Technology is becoming a more pervasive part of everybody’s life. Many people nowadays keep their phones with them around the clock, a habit that can be detrimental to sleep health. In fact, 95% of Americans say that they use some type of technology in the hour leading up to sleep. We depend on sleep for not only our mental health but also our physical health. A lack of sleep increases the risk of certain illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, and we are less mentally astute when awake.
Having your phone at your bedside makes you more inclined to check it at night, and it can severely impact the quality and amount of sleep that you get in a variety of ways:
1. The glow of a phone screen in the dark reduces the body’s production of melatonin, an extremely important hormone responsible for helping the body attain a circadian rhythm. This is the natural day-night cycle that dictates when you should be asleep or awake. A decline in the production of melatonin reduces the body’s ability to maintain a natural sleeping cycle.
2. A text message or a social media alert can wake you during your sleep. A recent study found that 22% of respondents reported having the cell phone ringer turned on and resting on the nightstand at night. Even worse, 10% of participants in the survey said the phone woke them up over the last week.
3. The period just before sleep should be a time when the brain is allowed to relax, such as through reading a book and talking with a partner. A technological device creates an amazing amount of stimulus, and it can be a challenge for the brain to relax, even after the lights have been turned off.
4. Interactive technology like cell phones, computers and tablets seems to impact the brain more than passive technology like a television or a radio. That can impact our memory and our ability to make rational decisions and have reasonable thoughts. This is especially true at night. We want to be distancing our brain from the interactive nature of technology devices and let it settle into dreamland.
5. When we have the phone or tablet in our bed, we start to associate our sleep environment as a social place. It’s becomes less a place where we sleep, and more a place where we connect and socialize with others, especially those who are not in the bedroom with us.
6. With technology by our side, we are constantly worried that something important will happen, and we are not involved. That fear and anxiety, called Fear of Missing Out Syndrome, can translate into difficulty getting to sleep or a night of restless sleep.
The next time you want to play Candy Crush or check Facebook right before you go to sleep, you might want to think twice. A night of quality sleep might depend on it.