In this day and age, we’ve become so hooked on our smartphones that it’s become almost impossible for us to set our devices down even up to the brink of our waking hours at night. However, many studies have shown that using our phones in bed can actually jack up our sleep big time. This is because the blue light wavelengths emitted by smartphones and other gadgets can negatively affect our body’s production of melatonin, a hormone synthesized and secreted by the pineal gland that plays a very important role in sleep regulation.
You can think of the blue light from your phone as something that tricks your body into thinking that it’s not yet time to sleep, even when you’re already prepared to hit the sack. After all, blue light wavelengths are primarily present during the day—the hours when your body needs to keep awake and remain alert the most.
Naturally, not using your smartphone before sleep is the best way to prevent it from putting your circadian rhythm out of whack. However, in our digitally driven world, it’s understandable why some people might find this a difficult rule to adhere to. If you’re one of these people, read on to find out what you can do instead.
Use your smartphone at night, but turn it off 2 to 3 hours before bedtime
If you can’t stop yourself from checking your Facebook and Instagram accounts or watching animal and ‘fail’ videos at night, at least set a time limit to regulate until what hour you will use it. For example, if you plan to grab the z’s at 10 PM, then shut your phone off or set it down on your night table by 7 PM or 8 PM at the latest.
This will not only set you up for a good night’s sleep, it will also help you build the discipline you need to create better sleeping habits. After all, staying up too late at night just to watch shows, play games, or surf the Internet won’t do anything good for your sleep health or your stress management goals.
Use your smartphone’s night mode feature
Many phones have a built-in night mode feature that reduces the amount of blue light being emitted by their screen. Apple’s iPhones for instance, have the Night Shift software that was first introduced into iOS 9.3 in March 2016 as a response to the wave of studies warning about the detrimental effects of blue light on sleep. This feature, which can be turned on in Settings, reduces blue light emission by shifting the display’s color temperature toward the yellow side of the light spectrum.
Many other phones have a similar feature, including Samsung’s Blue Light Filter and Pixel’s Night Light. If your Android phone doesn’t have a native night mode feature, consider installing a third-party application that lets you achieve the same objective.
Use blue light-filtering glasses
If you think that wearing some sort of light-blocking glasses at night is silly, you have another think coming. Wearing blue light-blocking glasses can actually help improve your sleep if you’re someone who stubbornly uses your phone at night.
A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Houston revealed that people who used these special glasses while using their smartphones at night were able to sleep faster, longer, and better than those who didn’t wear them. The researchers discovered that the nighttime melatonin levels in these participants’ bodies were boosted by 58 percent—better than what prescription medicines do.
If you would like to test the positive impact of blue light-blocking glasses yourself, consider getting a pair from your optometrist today.
Use your phone’s do not disturb feature
Preventing your phone’s display from messing up your hormones is just the first step toward sleeping like a log. The other step is making sure that your phone doesn’t disturb you after you’re finally able to get some sleep. This can be easily done by turning on your phone’s do not disturb feature, which allows you to silence calls, text messages, and notifications while you sleep—all while allowing you to set up alarms as usual. This is very important if you—like many other people nowadays—also use your smartphone as your alarm clock and thus keep it by your bedside as you sleep.
For iOS devices, the Do Not Disturb function can be easily accessed through Settings or via the Control Center. Take note that if you set up an alarm in the Clock app, the alarm will go off even if Do Not Disturb is turned on. Apple also lets you personalize this function’s settings, e.g. by allowing only calls from certain people or allowing a second call from the same person if that person redials within 3 minutes. This is handy in the event that you receive an urgent or an emergency call. Android phones, too, have a Do Not Disturb mode that you can turn on and customize. For instance, you can set it up so that only alarms or priority calls can disturb you—or conversely, nothing at all, even alarms.
With so many modern digital distractions available at our disposal today, it becomes all the more important for us to use our smartphones and other devices more wisely so that they don’t affect our sleep health—one of the keystone elements of our overall health. By following the four simple tips provided above, you’ll be able to strike the perfect balance between your desire to use your gadgets and the need of your body to get some quality rest and sleep.
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