Our smartphones are both a blessing and a curse. They provide us with constant connection to people across the globe and access to important information, all at the tips of our fingers. They’ve changed the world when it comes to efficiency and ease of access to data, giving more people more information than ever before. Smartphones can streamline business, make families safer, and have a wide range of uses outside of being just a phone.
Smartphone usage during the day is optimal, and while it can sometimes be distracting, it isn’t likely to harm you. Smartphone usage at night, however, has the potential to rob you of the sleep you need to function at your best throughout the next day.
The light that emits from your phone – the blue glow – has been studied by researchers and been found to disrupt the natural rhythm of your sleep/wakefulness patterns. Our bodies function in a cycle known as the circadian rhythm. This is the internal balance our body experiences between alertness and being sleepy. Our bodies – as with many other organisms on the planet – has a cycle that naturally lulls us to sleep and prompts us to wake at certain times over a 24 hour period. It turns out that that the blue light that comes from our phones can disrupt this pattern and rob us of quality and quantity of sleep.
How does this blue light rob us?
The glowing color coming from your screen works as a stimulant during a time when you need to be de-stimulated and working with your natural rhythm. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that our endocrine system secretes into our blood when we are nearing bedtime. The overstimulation of screen time while in bed – or in the two hours before bed – diminishes or prevents the production of hormone, which means we may stay more alert and have a harder time falling asleep.
We are not only affected by the visual glow of our phones. Many people are kept from the REM – Rapid Eye Movement – sleep that is the most restorative because we hear every alert that goes off during the night. That random email or social media engagement notification is no different than the cries of a newborn, keeping you from getting the sleep you need to function.
Here are some tips to reduce the negative effects smartphones have on your sleep:
Turn alerts off during sleep hours- Most smartphones have a “do not disturb” feature that allows you to shut off all notifications while still being able to receive calls from designated numbers. This means you can rest assured knowing your kids or aging parents can call during an emergency, but all other notifications will be silenced until you turn them back on.
Dim your screen- Most phones have a feature that dims the screen during a designated time frame, say 8:30 pm- 7:00 am. This reduces the amount of blue light radiating in the dark if your phone activates for one reason or another.
Set an autoresponder- If you receive emails on your phone, you can set an auto responder notifying the recipients that you check your emails two times per day – at 9:00 am and 4:00 pm for example – and that they can expect to hear from you during those times. This reduces any unrealistic expectations that others may have for immediate access to your time.
Our smartphones are tools that can make our lives easier and fun, but it defeats that purpose if we are denied the rest we need to show up for our lives the next day. You can reduce your fatigue and prevent burnout by making sure you are in command of your phone, not the other way around.