When you’re worried and you can’t sleep — and counting your blessings instead of sheep doesn’t do the trick — there’s a likely culprit who might be to blame: your cell phone.
It’s easy to scroll through your social media feeds or text friends towards the end of the day. But research shows that fiddling around on your phone might be sending unintended signals to your brain that keep you awake. Consider the (light) source. Your phone is equipped with a flash or LED lighting system, which can allow you to see in the dark and make sure photos are bright enough. In general, LED lighting is better for the environment, as the U.S. Department of Energy believes LED lighting could potentially reduce U.S. energy usage by nearly 50%. It’s also supposedly better for our health, able to alleviate headaches, eye strain, and other ailments associated with fluorescent lighting. However, that doesn’t mean that all the light that emanates from your phone is good for you.
In fact, it’s the light that’s probably making you more of an insomniac. The blue light that’s emitted by your phone, your laptop, and your other devices can actually limit the amount of melatonin naturally produced in your body, says Harvard University research. If you’ve ever taken melatonin capsules, you’ll know that this can help regulate your sleeping patterns and natural rhythms; it’s what’s responsible for telling you when to wake up and when to go to sleep. But the blue light from our devices can actually interfere with the production of this chemical, which makes it much harder for you to fall asleep.
Fortunately, there are now some ways to filter this blue light, thanks to built-in features from phone manufacturers. iPhones, Samsung phones, Google Pixel phones, Android devices, and others have the option to use a nighttime shift setting that will warm up the screen and help you fall asleep more easily.
That said, it’s probably best to not look at your phone at all when you’re trying to sleep, even if you have a blue light filter on. Watching a stimulating TV show on your screen before bed will make it harder to get some shut-eye, and the constant buzzing and ringing of a phone can make you feel anxious and wide awake when it’s time to lie down. There’s also research suggests that RF frequencies emitted by cell phones could be a possible carcinogen. Nothing definitive has been proven there yet, but just the suggestion might be enough to keep your phone away from where you sleep.
Experts suggest that you put your phone away 30 to 60 minutes before you go to bed to ensure a good night’s sleep. And if you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t even look at your phone screen! There’s even a phone sleeping bag called Bagby for those who can’t seem to resist the urge to check their notifications at 2 am.
Itseems that people are becoming more aware of the dangers of excessive phone use. For example, the percentage of drivers who used handheld cell phones or other electronic devices decreased from 3.8% to 3.3% between 2015 and 2016. But there are still too many Americans who feel so attached to their phones that they can’t seem to consider sleeping without them on the nightstand. If that sounds familiar, try switching up your phone storage and switching to a conventional alarm clock for your morning wake-up. It might take some getting used to, but you may find you’ll sleep better throughout the night and will feel a sense of relief that you won’t know what anyone texted or posted until the sun’s up again.