It’s 2 am, and you’re tumbling around in bed staring at the ceiling. You only checked your phone three times in the last 20 minutes, counting down the hours before your 8 am commitment. So you resort to your tried and true remedies: Sleepytime tea, check. Lavender pillow spray, check. Still no luck. What gives?
If this sad scene is all too familiar, there is something you can do that just might get you back to sawing logs, and it doesn’t involve palo santo: Don’t bring your phone into your bedroom.
Simply put, keeping your phone out of reach when you sleep helps save your sleep time from being replaced by screen time. Think of it this way: Out of sight, out of mind. Having your phone right there next to the bed just makes it that much more likely you’re going to look at it either when you can’t fall asleep or when you wake up in the middle of the night. Why is this no good for sleepytime?
Besides being a significant distraction to your regular sleep schedule, screen time could have other serious consequences. Looking at your phone at night exposes your eyes to blue light, which disrupts the release of melatonin from something in your brain called the pineal gland. This causes a nasty little chain reaction that both decreases and delays the release of melatonin, pushing your circadian rhythm back.
In other words, you’re telling your brain it’s daytime when it’s actually night. Sound a little like jet lag? That’s because it IS a little like jet lag. Studies also show that LED lights might decrease the amount of rapid eye movement sleep (REM) we get, and REM is essential for learning and for building long term memory. No wonder you’re staring at the ceiling.
Phones and social interaction
The negative influence of smartphones on sleep quality doesn’t end when we wake up in the morning. For the first 30-60 minutes of the day, our brains are in a state known as “sleep inertia.” During this period, reaction time is slowed and cognitive functioning is impaired. Feeling groggy in the morning? Sleep inertia is probably the culprit. You don’t want to be making work decisions on your smartphone and firing off emails when your brain is in this slowed-down state. Texting with your ex? Forget about it.
If you have serious insomnia, you should definitely consult a health practitioner. But if you think you could stand to create healthier boundaries around screen time, try keeping your phone out of the bedroom. It could be just the ticket you need to get back to slumberland.