Change into pajamas, wash face, brush teeth, put retainers on (because we all still have those, right?), hop in bed, stare at phone… how many of us have this as our routine before going to bed? I know I’d be lying if I said I didn’t go to bed with my phone regularly.
We, as a people, are so over plugged into our lives that we cannot shut off our brains at night to sleep. Literally. I recently (a year ago, so not recently at all…) bought one of those 10 ft long charging cables for my phone. Why? So I could read flash cards in bed and charge my phone at the same time. Now that I’m not in school anymore I still find myself staring at my phone at night, trying to read on this tiny screen in hopes to catch up on news or with friends in different time zones or to read in attempts to help myself fall asleep. I, along with hundreds of thousands of other people, am trying to keep up with everything and everyone constantly and we can’t seem to put our phones down to get some sleep (1). Why is it so bad for us to be using our iphones, androids, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, ipads, laptops, surface pros, and/or a 50″ flat screen TVs late at night from the comfort of our own beds? Well first of all, it’s ridiculous if you are sleeping with that many things in your bed, aren’t you worried about these expensive items falling off your bed in your sleep and breaking? But, more seriously, the issue here is that alluring artificial blue light.
So what’s the deal with this blue light and why does it impact us so much? The body functions on a system that is controlled by the amount of natural light and dark we are exposed to. This is called circadian rhythm and it’s a critical process in much more than just our sleep cycles (2). It is no secret that this light alters our cycles. Prior to the boom of technology, I’m talking like pre-2000s here, people relied primarily on sunlight for cues on when to start and end the day. People spent more time outside. Less jobs required you to stare at a giant LED screen, actually no jobs required you to stare at a massive LED screen back in the olden days… All of this screen time is seriously screwing up our bodies, especially our sleeping patterns. According to a study done in 2012, use of any of these technologies before sleep seriously screws with us. The use of technology prior to sleep has major biological effects on our circadian clock because it suppresses the levels of melatonin (that hormone we produce – or take – to help us sleep), which in turn reduces the amount of REM sleep we get, which leads to a decrease in alertness in the morning… ultimately impacting not just your sleep but also your overall functionality and daily performance (3).
Easily fixed, right? All we have to do is install some software to counter that penetrating blue light. Well yes, that’s a start. You could install flux (Apple, Windows) OR you could get some really trendy glasses (Pixel, Felix Gray). I highly recommend doing at least one of these things. I actually install flux on all of my devices and it’s easy to disable if you need true colors for digital editing. I personally prefer installing something to work in the device as I already wear glasses and I don’t need to double up light corrective glasses on my regular glasses (I already do that while driving…). Also, the iPhone now features a lovely “night shift” that you should all put on an auto-schedule (enable night shift). So, it’s actually quite easy to help ease that harsh blue light emitted to your eyes. Just because you make your screen yellow doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to sleep with your technology.
I know what you’re thinking, if I’ve countered the blue light then what’s the problem? It’s okay to be confused. The people over at Harvard are also confused as to why the increase of artificial light has such a large impact on overall health too (2). Maybe we should all just throw our phones out the windows and revert to carrier pigeons. I don’t know. But I can tell you that I will be taking a break from cuddling my phone in my sleep and hopefully you will too.
*Note: I am sponsored by literally no one so anything I am suggesting is based on my actual preferences. Although if you want to give me something to talk about then by all means, I would never turn down free things.