Smartphones have come crashing into our lives in the last decade. Cell phones were one thing, to always have a phone at the ready in our pocket. But now we have what amounts to small computers, and many of us keep them with us all day long, even into the night.
Recently, there was a study that said smartphones and video games cause teenagers to get less sleep, and that makes them more sad and leads to depression symptoms. It brought up the question of whether smartphones do that to everyone. Do smartphones affect your sleep?
Damien tends not to use his phone at night, and he doesn’t put it on his bed or beside him, so he’s not sure if it’s affecting his sleep. But he does admit that if he looks at the screen for too long at night that his eyes do get tired very easily.
Ada reports that it doesn’t really affect her sleep either because she switches it off an hour or so before she goes to sleep. It does lead to her frequently forgetting to switch it back on when she gets up, but to her, “sleep is more important than being connected all the time.”
Phil has his phone set so that the alarms will still ring, but all other sounds or vibrations will be silenced. He recognizes that “so many things can interfere with sleep quality, and tech is one of the main culprits.” He knows it’s easy to fall into the trap of screen time and alerts taking away from good sleep habits. “Good sleep, like all other bodily processes, is supply on demand.”
He surveyed his sleep quality recently, thinking he was doing well with it, and found he was getting about six hours a night or less, which he found alarming. He’s now trying to take steps to improve it, knowing that “good sleep is one of the cheapest and easiest ways you can improve your overall health, and the more good sleep you get, the easier it is to get to sleep and wake refreshed.”
Andrew finds that his smartphone really doesn’t affect his sleep. He’ll read things on his phone off and on all night, up until a few minutes before he goes to sleep, and he still nods off within five or ten minutes, just like he always has.
That said, he’s familiar with the science on it that “different light intensities and color temperatures have real biological effects on us,” especially the blue light that can suppress melatonin production. His computer and phone both have apps that adjust the color temperature depending on the time of day. He hasn’t noticed a big difference but knows “humans are notoriously bad at objective self-observation.” He wonders if younger generations are growing accustomed to the lights, but again, that study shows that they aren’t, at least not yet.
Alex knows that his smartphone definitely draws his attention when he should be sleeping. But he mostly reads ebooks on his phone at night, so it’s not like it’s “late-night Twitter sessions” keeping him up, although he knows conceivably he could be just as distracted with an ereader. He believes, “it’s more that my smartphone and associated technologies enable habits I’ve had all my life, making it easier and perhaps more disruptive to engage with content before I intend to sleep.”
Ryan doesn’t really have a problem with it. His phone is his alarm clock, so it’s within arm’s reach, but he reports he’s never been the type of person to obsessively check his phone. He doesn’t really have any strategies with it either, since he’s never really hand an issue with it.
I preface all of this by saying I have terrible sleep habits and always have, even before smartphones entered my life, but writing up the article about the research into teenagers’ use of smartphones definitely made me wonder if perhaps screen use overall affects my sleep, as I’m on a lit screen all day long.
Just looking at my smartphone, though, I do take it to bed with me. I can have a hard time falling asleep, so I either play a game or read a book trying to get sufficiently tired to nod off. It doesn’t interrupt my sleep as I often have the sound off, but then, like Ada, I forget to turn it back on. But I’m not usually checking it at night unless I happen to be waiting for a message. So for me, I’m not sure if it affects my sleep. The jury’s still out.
We want to know how you feel about this topic as well. Do you take your phone to bed or do you turn it off by that point? Is your sleep interrupted by notifications coming through all night long? Do smartphones affect your sleep? Join our conversation in the comments section below.
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