With the smart phone having replaced so many crucial devices in our lives – alarm clocks, books, newspapers – it isn’t a surprise that it has taken a huge toll on our health as well. Of course, there’s the obvious killers, such as texting and driving, but the damage being done here is much more slow acting and can be even more devastating in some ways; sleeping with a phone nearby is essentially killing your sleep.
Of the most elementary reasons why the smart phone would be near your bed, such as to help wake you up in the morning, there are underlying issues causing harm on your physical, emotional and mental health over the long run. The effects can range from being distracted, poor memory retention, irritability, increased reliance on unhealthy foods for energy, attributing to mental health disorders such as depression and not allowing the body time to recuperate from the stress it is put under daily.
While some believe that sleep deprivation is just a modern trait of today, the smartphone undeniably is a major contributor. Here’s how your sleep and your phone aren’t very compatible.
It tricks your brain into thinking it needs to be awake
A healthy sleep routine relies on a chemical called melatonin, which needs dim or lack of light in order to be produced correctly. The bright glow of smartphones, laptops, eReaders and tablets have been quoted from research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as playing a role in suppressing melatonin production. Melatonin is essential for feeling ‘sleepy’ or drowsy enough to fall asleep. People who had screens lit consistently around them or used them more often were quoted in the research findings as feeling more alert and experienced greater trouble falling asleep than people reading printed material. Artificial light plays just as much of a role as keeping you awake as the sun shining in through the blinds. Of course, we can’t go back to a world of classic printed material and oil lamps, though we can do something about our own situation.
Smartphones can vastly degrade the quality of your life
We all like using our devices before bed, catching up on things, watching videos or just trying to relax in general. Unfortunately, the compromise of the trade-off between winding down and catching up is steep. Your body and brain use sleep as a time to repair and maintain things so you can continue to function at your best. A lack of sleep or poor sleep habits can inhibit these repairs and leave you with far-reaching health symptoms that will continue on long past that cat video you watched before bed. One of the processes that takes place during sleep is the mechanism involved with weight loss. If you’ve been worrying about losing weight, or obesity, it might be worth putting down the phone and getting some rest. Other areas that are typically affected are the cardiovascular system and the crucial elements we need in order to process information and handle stress properly. Again, if you can’t turn off your phone for one reason or another, the frustration is understandable. When poor sleep plays such a large role in things like obesity, heart strain and even depression, a compromise should be considered in some way.
What do you do when you can’t turn off your phone?
Whether it is Face Time with a loved one, texting, needing to be contacted for emergencies or your job, there are just some scenarios where the phone has to stay, there needs to be a balance. Android users can download apps that implement a filter to help decrease the amount of blue light that emits from your screen. If you’re on a different device, you made need to by a physical filter to do the same task. These same filters can also be applied to computer screens, so there is no need to resort to throwing a pillow case or towel over them. How do these filters work? Several studies have shown that the blue light in particular that is emitted by these electronic devices plays a large part in suppressing melatonin and prohibiting sleep.
Of course, there is no guarantee that this type of filter will completely solve the problem of sleeplessness that comes from using screens. At present, it is one of the best solutions available, along with reading good old fashioned print books and material.
Try and keep in mind what sort of material you are reading before bed, as another tip. Stressful documents from work or angry rants on social media sites are hardly going to be soothing or help you settle in for a good night of sleep.
Above all else – know when to turn it off
The studies performed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that artificial light could affect brain chemistry by doing a series of tests using tablets. According to their results, the use of an Apple or PC tablet for two hours at night caused a twenty-two percent reduction in melatonin levels; that helpful chemical that aids sleep. They got similar results in a study involving college students who used computers at night for roughly the same amount of time.
It is sometimes difficult to determine the actual time necessary to turn off a smartphone or device. Many feel they are becoming more relaxed as they read, play games, watch movies or interact with their friends using their device.
Many studies show a clear correlation between the use of devices with screens before bed and reduced melatonin levels, as well as the often unnoticed effects on our health that comes with sleep deprivation. While filters may help to a certain extent, the best practice seems to be turning off said devices a good amount of time before actually trying to sleep.
The unfortunate truth
As mentioned earlier, we as a society tend to ignore sleep. Sleep deprivation is worn as a badge of honour in overworked career people and students – it’s practically trendy to be exhausted and stressed. With that sort of mentality, many underestimate the effects that chronic sleep deprivation can have on us. Whether it is adding on to stress at work, making daily life more difficult, adding to the risk of obesity and depression, it is no secret that sleep deprivation is absolutely serious. The tie that we have to our electronic devices and smartphones have made things much easier, moved us towards more technological advancements and even helped the world feel smaller. Though the benefits of such are hardly much to argue against, this era of technology has convinced our society that we can operate like machines just as much as the ones we use – we simply can’t.
Just like your phones need to be plugged in to charge, we need the same in the way of a good nights’ rest. What it ultimately comes down to is not forgetting our health, even when we feel as though we must be connected somehow and in some way at all times. Sleep bares far too much importance. It might be time to convince your phone to sleep in a separate bed.
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