Is scrolling through your smartphone screen stopping you getting the sleep you need?
Nowadays it’s almost impossible to function without a smartphone. Gone are the days when phones were there purely for making calls; we now use them for everything from shopping and social media to news, work, streaming and more.
But this constant scrolling isn’t necessarily the best thing when it comes to our health and wellbeing. Multiple studies have linked the rise in smartphone use and social media to growing levels of anxiety and depression, especially among young people. What’s more, using your smartphone late into the evening could be having an impact on your sleep quality.
We’re going to take a closer look at the relationship between smartphones and sleep, asking how you can change your phone habits to help you rest easier.
The impact of smartphones on sleep
Blue light-emitting screens like smartphones can delay your body’s natural cues that let it know sleep is imminent, supressing the release of melatonin and other relaxation hormones. By exposing our eyes – and minds – to a constant stream of information well into the evening, we’re making it harder and harder for our brains to shut off from the world and unwind.
And the poor sleep you get from late night scrolling doesn’t just lead to tiredness. Over time, chronic sleep deprivation can result in mood swings, memory problems, difficulty learning, an increased risk of accidents, mental health concerns, and even a greater risk of physical health conditions like heart attacks and obesity. Clearly, there are serious concerns surrounding the use of smartphones in the run up to sleep.
Using your smartphone for good
The issue of sleep and smartphones isn’t all black and white, however. In fact, there are some ways in which smartphone users can utilise their technology to monitor and improve their sleep habits.
Sleep trackers have become a hugely popular way of learning more about how and when you sleep, showing you how many hours you slept, and how high quality this sleep was. This can provide key insights into how to improve your sleep habits. However, some have reported increased anxiety surrounding sleep when monitoring is involved; seeing a bad night’s sleep laid out in facts and figures can make you feel more tired.
Smartphones and streaming technology also make meditation and sleep guides more accessible than ever. Apps like Headspace and Calm have seen a huge uptake in recent years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more and more people using their guides to unwind in the run-up to bedtime.
How to moderate your smartphone use for better sleep
Smartphones are intrinsic to modern life, so cutting them out entirely isn’t exactly a realistic option. However, there are steps you can take to control your smartphone use and support better sleep.
The very best thing you can do is give yourself a smartphone curfew. Lying in bed scrolling right up until the moment you close your eyes is detrimental to sleep in several ways – the artificial screen light can inhibit the release of melatonin, and the constant stream of information you’re receiving can contribute to stress and stop your brain from unwinding. So pick a time, at least an hour before bed, when you put down your phone for the last time that day. Consider keeping your phone out of your bedroom altogether so you aren’t tempted to pick it up. This will help you associate your bedroom with rest. Instead, you can read, stretch or meditate.
Similarly, try not to make scrolling through your phone the very first thing you do when you wake up in the morning. Get out of bed, open the curtains and let some natural light in before you consider catching up on everything you’ve missed.