“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.” ~ Homer
Sleeping well is key to feeling calm. When we sleep well, we manage anxious thoughts better. Since I started out in psychology, the world has changed a lot. Good sleep habits were always part of helping people create better sleep but today’s tip wasn’t on the list back then.
That’s because since that time we’ve had a technology revolution. The smartphones that provide us with round-the-clock connectivity also increase your chance of poor sleep and developing insomnia. It’s not just teens that are affected by phone use.
In a recent Australian study of more than 1,200 adults with a median age of 54, Dr. Michele Lastella found that those who used their phones for more than 60 minutes after they turned the lights out took significantly longer to fall asleep than adults who didn’t use their phone. Even those adults who scrolled through for less time reported more sleep problems than those who didn’t. People who didn’t use their phones at all after lights out achieved up to two hours more sleep per night than those who did.
This study is not the only reason why the number one tip I recommend for sleeping better is to keep your smartphone out of your bedroom. Smartphones also cause problems with sleep because:
1. Smartphones also have all types of beeps, alerts and banners beaming out at you trying to get your attention. You can easily be woken and feel pressured to text back.
2. Smartphones take you into a world far bigger than your quiet and relaxing bedroom. If you engage with your smartphone you may see distressing news stories. Even pleasant topics can disturb sleep. Exciting announcements, parties you missed, engaging reading on your favourite site are all found on these devices.
3. Smartphones emit blue light. When you look at your smartphone at night you get a dose of blue light that signals to your brain that it’s daytime. This may prevent melatonin being produced and in turn create problems falling asleep at the normal time.
Do you need a smartphone in your bedroom?
The most common reason I’m given for why a phone is in the bedroom is that it functions as an alarm clock. For the benefit of your sleep, go back to an old-fashioned alarm clock. It won’t emit blue light every time you check the time. These alarm clocks don’t allow access to the broader world that doesn’t care if you sleep.
I hear stories all the time, both socially and in my clinic, of people checking their phones, finding messages, reading from their phones when they can’t sleep, checking them when they wake for whatever reasons.
If the phone is in your bedroom, you will probably use it. I keep my phone in a hallway and apply a do not disturb night function which only allows calls and messages from close family members to come through. Too often, I’ve been woken by calls, SMS and Facebook messages from friends, family and businesses operating in other time zones.
Your sleep is vital to your health and ability to stay calm. Protect yourself from the sleep problems that come from having a phone in your bedroom. Care for your sleep and put your phone in another room for the night. Better still, put it away one to two hours before bed.