To think that there was indeed a time where electronics did not exist is still somewhat foreign to me. Technology has become such a hallmark of the times that it’s nearly impossible to get away from, and while it does have many uses, too much of it can be a bad thing — the same principle can be applied to many things in life.
Out of all the ways that using electronics can affect a person’s health, sleep is arguably one of the most important ones. We don’t really think much of it when we’re on our phones before we go to sleep. I usually give myself anywhere between one to two hours to either watch videos on my phone or read a book before bed to help put me to sleep.
However, the light from a phone can mess up your circadian rhythm, which is a cycle that goes for around 24 hours, and is a physiological process of living creatures. To put it more simply, if you’ve ever wondered why you tend to feel full of energy and completely tired around roughly the same times every day, it’s because of your circadian rhythm. It may be harder to notice if you’re a college student that has an extremely inconsistent sleep schedule like myself, but it’s still apparent enough when you look for it.
According to an article on Sleep.org, the light that is emitted from cell phone screens affect the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that controls your circadian rhythm. The less melatonin produced, the more difficult it is to fall asleep and stay asleep. I’ve noticed this very often when I try to go to bed early to go to the gym in the morning. I’ll go to bed at 10 p.m., wake up either just before or right after midnight, and then not be able to fall back asleep until close to 2 a.m. and in some cases I don’t fall back asleep until it’s time to go work out.
It should also be noted that doing something on your phone is not relaxing and it actually makes you more alert. Even though watching videos on my phone does successfully put me to sleep, it takes significantly longer than when I read a book. When I read a book my eyes tend to get heavy within 30 minutes, whereas it takes about an hour on the phone before I begin to feel sleep creeping up on me.
Being on your phone before bed also affects how you will feel the following day. An article on PsychologyToday.com by Susan Biali mentions that you will tend to feel more groggy than usual when you wake up if you spent the previous night before bed on your phone. This is another thing that I can attest to, as when I wake up at 9 a.m. to go to work, I don’t usually fully wake up until I start my commute. Getting out of bed can sometimes be a serious struggle, almost like a war between two sides of my brain. One advocates that I get up and start getting ready to leave and the other demands that I hit the snooze button and go back to sleep.
Personally, I don’t mind it all that much on the weekend when I have ample amounts of time to sleep, but on the weekdays, it can be a real problem sometimes. And I must admit that it’s rather difficult to not be on your phone before you go to bed, especially if you’re someone like myself who likes to check social media before I call it a night.
Biali suggests finding other bedtime routines to break your habit of using your phone before lights out, and I think that this tactic can work very well if you can find some way to entertain yourself that doesn’t involve a screen. In the article, she also says that she usually goes to bed between 10:30 and 11 p.m. and that she sets an alarm to go off at 9 p.m. to remind her to not use any screens before she goes to bed. This can also be a good deterrent to keep yourself from being tempted to pick up your phone if you keep it on a nightstand next to your bed.
My advice would be to just stop using your electronics before you go to bed, but I realize that for some people that may not be an option. In that case, I would advise you to give yourself an extra two or three hours of sleep to balance out the time you will spend waking up in the middle of the night.