5 ways your cellphone may impact sleep quality
Modern smartphones and tablets emit something called blue light. This blue light has several effects on the human body, including telling your brain that it's time to wake up when you should be going to bed instead. In contrast, if your phone had a red light instead of a blue one, your brain would believe it was time to go to sleep whenever you looked at your phone or tablet.
But blue light is just one part of how smartphones affect your sleep.
1. Keep you up later
If browsing through social media or the news is part of your bedtime routine, you may be sabotaging your own attempts to go to sleep. Browsing on a smartphone or tablet before bed stimulates the brain, keeping it alert when it should be winding down. While the blue light plays a role in this, a lot of it also has to do with your own reactions to what you read.
Reading something upsetting or exciting before bed gets your energized when your body should be relaxing, and using electronics to browse social media has shown to result in sleep disturbances.
2. Disturb your circadian rhythm
Everyone has an internal circadian rhythm, which shifts throughout the day from moments of alertness and sleepiness. On average, adults should feel sleepiest between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and then again between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. If our bodies are getting an adequate amount of sleep every night, any dip in the circadian rhythm — periods of feeling sleepy — will be less intense. So, it's important to maintain a regular sleep schedule at night to avoid excessive drowsiness during the day.
Staying up too late forces the body to readjust from a normal sleep pattern to accommodate the disturbance. Similarly, not sleeping well, waking up multiple times throughout the night and other factors that prevent you from getting a proper night's sleep are all disturbances that can disrupt your circadian rhythm.
That blue light we mentioned earlier is one of the main culprits of disrupting our circadian rhythm since our brains interpret blue light as a sign of morning and assume we should be waking up.
3. suppress your melatonin secretion
Blue light is also guilty of suppressing how much melatonin our bodies create. Melatonin is a necessary hormone our brains naturally create to control when we wake up and when we sleep. Melatonin levels naturally increase in the evening and continue to rise, which helps us fall asleep. When the sun rises, the melatonin levels decrease, encouraging us to wake up.
More melatonin is needed at night time, but the amount of melatonin the body creates is dependent on the circadian rhythm and the amount of light we're exposed to each day. While we can easily turn off lamps and overhead lights, it's harder to avoid the blue light from electronics. That light ends up disrupting the circadian rhythm, which then reduces the amount of melatonin the body creates — leading to more difficultly falling asleep and staying asleep.
4. reduce the quality of sleep
Lack of melatonin also means you could find yourself constantly waking up throughout the night or finding it difficult to go back to sleep once you wake.
Even if you don't read on your phone before bed, just having it in the same room can help disrupt your sleep. The dings, beeps and buzzes from various notification alerts can pull you out of sleep. If you're woken up by a phone notification and decide to check it, the blue light from the phone will make it even harder for you to fall back asleep even if the contents of the notification aren't stimulating.
And if you're the lucky sort who can manage to sleep through noise, the quality of your sleep still won't be as good as it would be if your bedroom was free of electronic interference altogether.
5. Decrease the amount of rem sleep
Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is one of the stages we experience in a normal night's rest. REM sleep is when most of our dreams occur and it's also the period of sleep in which our bodies become paralyzed — except our eyeballs — and our mind has an activity level similar to when we're awake. This period of sleep is crucial for solidifying memories and sharpening our creative and problem-solving skills.
Naturally, the body will require less REM sleep as it ages, but reducing the amount of REM sleep unnaturally — such as by using cell phones and similar electronics before going to sleep — can end up negatively affecting your day-to-day life. A lack of proper REM sleep also adds to a reduced quality of sleep and makes it much harder for you to wake up when you need to. When you do finally wake, without enough completed REM cycles, you'll feel groggy and sluggish, taking far longer than usual to feel fully woken up.