“I keep my phone in my room at night,” says nearly every patient I see these days.
“It’s my alarm.”
“I need to check what time it is if I wake up in the middle of the night.”
“I play games before bed to unwind.”
I nod and smile, it’s 2019 after all. For some of us, the phone is totally benign. But if you are struggling with difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep, the phone might be part of the problem.
Here’s why keeping your smartphone on your nightstand may actually be interfering with your sleep:
Bright light suppresses melatonin. Melatonin makes us drowsy. As we stare into the phone’s light, our body’s natural sleepiness is actually suppressed.
Scrolling and tapping.
Scrolling through articles and tapping on links is quite different than passively reading a book. Movement actively engages certain areas of our brain making it counter-productive to falling asleep.
Smart phones aren’t boring.
In fact, if you wanted to force yourself to stay awake despite being exhausted, opening links and reading short excerpts on topics that pique your interest is a great way to force yourself to stay awake.
What can you do instead?
Put electronics away at least 30 minutes before bed.
If your phone is your alarm, plug it in at the far end of the room facing down.
If your mind is awake and alert, resist the urge to look at your phone.
Choose a passive activity like reading from a paperback.
Ideally something interesting enough to distract you from worries/planning/frustration but boring enough that you will notice when you become sleepy.
Following these alternatives will eliminate distractions and ultimately help you get a better sleep at night.