Smartphones make our lives undeniably more convenient, but their addictive pull can also interfere with our body’s circadian rhythm and prevent us from getting a good night’s sleep. When you’re plugged in, you are constantly available to family, friends and work colleagues. There is no down time. Even when you are not actually checking your phone for the latest text or update, a corner of your brain is constantly distracted, wondering if a new message has arrived.
Being “on call” 24/7 can leave you feeling distracted and anxious. Instead of focusing on the people we’re with or the task at hand, you’re constantly sneaking a peek at your phone. The need to make sure you’re not missing anything can also interfere with your sleep. If, like nearly half of smartphone owners, you use your phone as an alarm clock; you could be sabotaging your sleep.
“It’s a very slippery slope, once you’ve picked up your phone, to see what time it is, to checking your email, to lying awake with anxiety,” Dr. David M. Claman, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, told Nick Bilton of the New York Times. “If you wake up in the middle of the night and check your phone, you will inevitably get frustrated and worried by something you’ve seen, leading your body to tense up.”
But distraction is just part of the problem. The screens of smartphones and other digital devices emit short wavelength blue light that can suppress melatonin production and interfere with sleep. A hormone the body produces at night in response to dwindling light, melatonin signals the body to sleep. Disruptions in melatonin production can disrupt sleep duration and quality.
A 2012 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Lighting Research Center study found that two hours exposure to the light from electronic devices before bedtime was enough to interfere with melatonin production. Little impact was noticed when exposure was limited to one hour or less. A more recent Mayo Clinic study found that dimming smartphones and digital displays to medium or lower settings minimized melatonin and sleep disruption.
My advice: Ban your smartphone from your bedroom and buy an alarm clock. If you must sleep with your smartphone, turn off the ringer and dim the display to its lowest setting. Sweet dreams! Need help relaxing for sleep? Visit my Meditation Room for soothing meditation tools.