The Impact of Late-Night Phone Use on Sleep Quality

By Aware

5 min read

Let's be honest: How frequently do you bring your phone to bed? How many times have you intended to get an early night's rest only to find yourself lying awake in the dark, endlessly scrolling through social media or exchanging messages?

While smartphones play a vital role in our daily lives for communication and staying updated, using them before bedtime can disrupt a crucial aspect of our well-being: sleep.

Research indicates that more than a third of Americans fail to get the recommended seven hours of sleep per night necessary for the body and mind to rejuvenate. Additionally, a study conducted by a group of prominent sleep experts revealed that 90% of Americans use some form of technology in the hour leading up to bedtime.

Switch Off Alerts, Drift Into Sleep

Create optimal conditions for a restful night's sleep by incorporating deep, ambient sounds about an hour before bedtime.

It's safe to say that individuals worldwide struggle with finding a balance between utilising technology and maintaining good sleep hygiene. So, how can we manage the benefits of technology with the necessity to prepare our minds for sleep?

In an era before computers and mobile phones, renowned sleep expert Richard Bootzin famously advised, in 1972, to limit activities in bed solely to sleep and sex. This advice holds true even today.

Using your phone before bed can hinder sleep by keeping the mind engaged when it should be winding down. While it's natural to want to read before bedtime, there's a significant difference between reading from a book and reading from a screen. Even a brief glance at our phones can stimulate the brain, sending alert signals rather than signals to sleep.

Studies conducted by Harvard University and the University of California, San Francisco, have highlighted the detrimental effects of light-emitting electronic devices on sleep. Exposure to blue light emitted by screens suppresses the production of melatonin, disrupting our sleep-wake cycle and affecting both the duration and quality of sleep.

Disconnect to Enhance Sleep Quality

There are several guidelines we can follow to minimize the impact of phone use on our sleep. While ideally, turning off devices two hours before bedtime would be optimal, setting aside an hour is a more practical approach. Even just 30 minutes without phone use before bed can make a significant difference, as demonstrated by research from Shanghai.

Alternatively, reducing exposure to blue light can be achieved by adjusting phone settings, using apps that filter blue light or turning on Night Shift, or wearing amber-tinted glasses. Ultimately, reading a book before bedtime remains an effective option.

Part of establishing good sleep hygiene involves calming the mind to prepare for sleep. Meditation promotes better sleep by inducing the relaxation response and redirecting attention away from racing thoughts towards focused breathing.

Examining our phone usage before bed involves evaluating our self-care routine. By understanding how our habits either help or hinder our sleep quality, we can implement solutions that prioritize our well-being and promote a good night's sleep.