We’ve all been there. We say goodnight to anyone we might have been talking to, get under the covers, check “one thing” on our phones, and then have every intention of going to sleep. However, all too often that “one thing” turns into “multiple things,” and then it’s 3A.M. and our smartphones are still in hand, screens glaring. The other night, as I found myself in this position, I started to think “is this something I should really be doing?”
The simple answer: probably not
According to Harvard Health, smartphones and other electronics give off what’s called blue light/wavelengths that actually make the brain believe it is daytime. This stream of photons (the wavelengths) from our smartphones prevent the production of melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone) which: causes people to stay awake longer, makes it more difficult for people to fall asleep, disrupts circadian rhythms, and disturbs the sleep cycle. All things that contribute to poor sleep quality and incomplete repair of damages to the mind and body. However, if that isn’t enough to convince you to put down your phone at night, let’s put some things in perspective through a few studies.
1. Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: Scientists had participants look at a screen for 60 minutes and then for 2+ hours while they measured the amount of light reaching the back of the eye. After 60 minutes, melatonin levels didn’t change enough to affect the human circadian system and disrupt sleep. But after 2 hours, there was a significant increase in melatonin suppression.
2. Karolinska Institute and Uppsala University in Sweden and Wayne State University in Michigan, USA: Exposed one group of participants to radiation which mimicked that of a smartphone and another was placed in the same environment but with fake exposure and no radiation. Scientists found that “people who had received the radiation took longer to enter the first of the deeper stages of sleep, and spent less time in the deepest one.”
3. BMC Public Health and Sleep Medicine: Tested different groups of people as well as took multiple variables into consideration. Since these two groups did this, they found that overall people who used smartphones before bed had disrupted/poor quality sleep, but in some cases, there was no affect (at least, not one that was really significant). This shows that sometimes it just depends on a variety of factors such as culture, age, duration, frequency, etc.
Now, I know what you may be thinking, if there was at least the slightest bit of inconsistency between studies, should we turn off our phones before bed or not? Well, if you use your phone at night and find yourself waking up tired, maybe it’s something you should try. But if you are one of those people where looking at your phone before bed is habitual, try and be conscious about how long and how often you’re using it. Instead of three hours, cut it down to twenty minutes. After all, sleeping is extremely important, and depending on how well you rest can determine how you feel, think, and act throughout the day.