How Your Smartphone Is Affecting Your Sleep

How Your Smartphone Is Affecting Your Sleep

Your smartphone could be to blame for those puffy red eyes and insatiable craving for caffeine. 

Research has shown that using your phone before sleep and also simply sleeping near your phone can seriously affect the way your body restores itself.

Several studies published in recent years reveal how our mobile phones affect the length and quality of our sleep, ultimately inhibiting the body’s ability to repair and rejuvenate itself.

The Importance Of A Good Night’s Sleep

Humans sleep in a cycle of five stages.  Each has a different function and all are essential for overall health and wellbeing.

The first two stages are lighter non-REM periods.

The third and fourth stages are deeper phases of sleep where the body starts repairing skin, bone and muscle.

During the last stage, REM sleep, brain activity is increased, dreams are vivid and memory is improved and restored.

Once the final stage has completed, the cycle starts again.


How Smartphones & Tablets Are Disrupting Your Sleep


A study published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Progress in Electromagnetics Research Symposium showed that the radiation emitted by a mobile phone can delay and shorten sleep stages three and four.

The study, conducted by scientists and researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, Uppsala University in Sweden and Wayne State University in the USA, included results from approximately 70 test subjects. The participants were composed of men and women aged between 18 and 45, with some exposed to mobile phone style radiation and others having received no radiation at all.

Findings showed that those who were exposed to the radiation not only had a shorter period of stage four sleep, but took longer to actually reach stage four.

The scientists said that the study showed, “during laboratory exposure to 884 MHz wireless signals, components of sleep believed to be important for recovery from daily wear and tear are adversely affected.”

The study’s leading scientist, Professor BengtArnetzalso believes that the radiation can delay the onset of sleep.

He believes mobile phone radiation activates the brain’s stress system which makes “people more alert and more focused, and decreasing their ability to wind down and fall asleep”.


Source: Andrew Rennie - Flickr

Source: Andrew Rennie – Flickr

It’s not just the radiation that is affecting our sleep.  The incandescent glow of a phone screen can also be detrimental to our REM cycle.

Our bodies run on a clock that is synchronised to daylight.  In essence, light wakes us up and darkness puts us to sleep.

Professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, Charles A. Czeisler, estimates that since the inception of artificial electrical light, the mechanisms prompting the body to sleep have been delayed by up to six hours.

Today, modern technologies like phones are only helping to throw our body clock further off balance.  Scientists at Harvard Medical School, including Czeisler, have found that the sleep inducing hormone, melatonin, is suppressed by certain wavelengths of light.

In recent years there have been two separate studies, published by The Journal of Physiology and the American Physiological Society, that show blue light (light with a shorter wavelength) is the most effective at stopping the production of melatonin.

Basically, blue light is the light that keeps you awake.

And since the light emitted by our LED phones and tablets is primarily blue, this is especially problematic.

It means that checking your emails or reading or reading on your mobile device before bed convinces your body it’s day time, thus making it difficult to fall asleep or to complete the body’s REM cycle.


How Interrupted Sleep Affects Your Health

How smartphones affect health sleepBased on these findings, sleep experts are cautioning mobile device users to be mindful of how they use their devices.

Dr William Kohler of the Florida Sleep Institute explained that, “anything that disrupts the integrity of your sleep will potentially have adverse consequences in functioning during the day.”

In accordance, the National Sleep Foundation in the USA stated that lack of or disturbed sleep “can not only inhibit your productivity and ability to remember and consolidate information, but lack of sleep can also lead to serious health consequences.”

Sleep deprivation and disturbed sleep have been linked to increased stress, aging and weight gain.  When you are sleep deprived the body releases a stress hormone called cortisol which breaks down the skin collagen that keeps us looking young and causes us to age faster.

Cortisol also causes the body to resist weight loss and hoard fat, particularly in areas such as the abdomen.

But it doesn’t end there.  The long term effects of sleep deprivation are an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, strokes, diabetes and depression.


How To Reduce The Affect Smartphones Have On Your Sleep

This is not great news for the majority of us who sleep within reaching distance of our phone.

A 2012 Time/Qualcomm survey (Time’s Mobility Poll) showed that 68 per cent of people keep their phone next to their bed when sleeping.

Why wouldn’t we? Phones have become our flash lights, books and clocks.

So what is the solution?  The obvious one is to banish your device from the bedroom. If you use your smartphone or tablet as an alarm clock, it might be time to invest in a real alarm and leave your device charging in another room.

But for those not willing to part with their phone, even merely turning aeroplane mode on will somewhat reduce the effects of smartphone radiation as well as keeping those pesky early morning emails for the next day. Indeed, an article states that “this way, basic features like the alarm clock will work, but the transmission will be suspended such that the phone’s radiation will have minimal affect on us.”

As for the light emitted by our phones, the only real way to combat the melatonin suppression caused by LED light is to avoid using your phone or tablet before bed.

But if you must use your phone before bed it can be helpful to turn down the blue light.  Stick to lights at the other end of the spectrum like oranges, yellows and reds.


Has your mobile device affected the quality of your sleep? Let us know in the comments below!