Is your phone keeping you from a good night's sleep?
What do you do when you’re ready to go to bed, but not quite ready to fall asleep? Maybe you spend 30 minutes on social media or decide to check email one last time, just in case.
You put your phone on the nightstand and turn over to drift off.
But a few hours later, you’re awake again. Or maybe you never fell asleep. You notice the blinking notification on your phone and decide to see what’s up.
This happens so much that by the time your alarm goes off, you wake up exhausted.
If tweeting, updating, texting, emailing and watching TV are ruining your sleeping habits, you’re not alone.
And it’s a problem. A huge one, according to Jennifer May, PhD, RPSGT, Manager of Clinical Neurophysiology for Sentara Sleep Center.
3 Reasons Why Your Gadgets Prevent A Good Night’s Sleep
1.) Notifications keep us up later
Notifications—those little blinking lights and blipping sounds that let you know someone has commented on your status update, or retweeted you—can be annoying enough during the day. But at night, they can hurt your sleep.
“When your cell phone is right next to your bed, you’ve got Facebook is going off when people comment,” she explains. “It’s fragmenting your sleep because the notification sounds wake you up, and you want to check it.”
2) Light disrupts our natural sleep cycles
Light from your phone’s screen may not seem as bright as a bedside lamp, but it can still disrupt your sleep.
There’s a reason people sleep at night—after the sun goes down. Your body is built to recognize nighttime darkness as a cue to go to bed.
Here’s why light from your gadgets disrupts your ability to sleep, Dr. May says: “The brightness confuses your circadian rhythm, making it think it’s still time to be alert and awake.” Circadian rhythm is the 24-hour sleep/wake cycle that your body runs on.
So with the light, the interruptions and the tendency to stay up later reading texts and updates, your body forgets that bedtime is for sleeping.
3) Information overloads our emotions
Maybe it’s an infuriating comment by your cousin whose political views are the complete opposite of yours. Or maybe it’s an ASAP email at midnight from your boss about how the sky is falling; it’s your fault; and you’re going to meet about it tomorrow.
These may seem like completely different situations, but they have one thing in common: They evoke strong emotional responses that may keep you up at night if they’re the last thing you look at before you go to bed.
“With all of this information, we might spend more time thinking about things at night before we fall asleep,” Dr. May explains, “or we see a last-minute post from somebody, and it gets us angry, sad or anxious.”
4 Ways To Get a Good Night’s Sleep Without Technology
1) Take a technology timeout before bed
“Power things down early,” Dr. May suggests. Turn off electronics about 30 minutes before bed. “This will help your body get used to the idea of going to bed, both mentally and physically.”
You may even want to eliminate technology completely from the bedroom, especially if turning them off is not enough to fight the temptation of checking them.
2) Keep gadgets out of the bedroom
This may be a stretch at first, but think about whether you could get rid of the keep your cell phone and tablet in another room.
3) Adjust your settings
For people who have to keep their gadgets by the bed, use nighttime modes. Put the phone to sleep so buzzing notifications and blinking lights don’t wake you up.
And if you simply can’t fall asleep without reading your tablet for a bit, there are ways to tone that down, too. E-readers now have brightness settings. “That can help a little bit,” Dr. May says.
During those times when you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep, try turning on a soft light and picking up a physical book instead of your tablet.
4) Tell your kids to unplug, too
Kids are also guilty of letting gadgets ruin their sleep. But the lack of sleep harms children differently.
“For kids, sleep can impact their grades at school—how well they can function,” Dr. May says. “If they’re into sports, getting a good night’s sleep is going to help them become a better athlete. If you don’t get enough sleep you’re going to be grouchy with your friends. To be a successful student and a good friend, you really need your sleep.”
If you log off and are still having a hard time falling asleep, a sleep specialist may be able to get your mind and body to power down at night, too.