Switch off by switching off your phone
By Daniel J McLaughlin
It can be difficult to switch off at night. All sort of things can stop you dozing off - noisy neighbours, those annoying dogs down the road, the heat, the cold, the million and one thoughts buzzing around in your brain. Sometimes it seems like there is a conspiracy that is preventing you from sleeping. What can you do? Count sheep, stare endlessly at the ceiling, reading boring books to tire you out?
To switch off at night, you may have to switch off from your mobile phone.
The glaring screen in the darkness and the draw of its many apps may be keeping you awake at night. At the dawn of the smartphone, a decade ago, Blackberry phones were known as "crackberry" to describe their addictive quality. Most smartphones today could be described as addictive, leaving their users junkies to the mini computers in their pockets.
Smartphones could be disrupting sleep because they emit what's known as "blue" light. According to the Atlantic, this blue light is picked up by special cells behind our eyeballs, and it communicates to the brain that it is morning. "Red" light, on the other hand, signals that it is time to hit the sack. All of this blue light, they add, suppresses melatonin, a hormone that helps with sleep timing and circadian rhythms (the roughly 24 hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings). At night, our melatonin levels are supposed to rise in anticipation of sleep. With the exposure to more blue light, this may not occur.
The problem, Sleep.org argues, is that 71 per cent of people sleep either holding their smartphone, having it in bed with them, or having it on their nightstand. With phones at an arm's reach, there is the temptation to check your social media, work email, or the news.
"As a result, you might feel energized from interacting with others or stressed out by something that you read when you should actually be relaxing. That partly explains why people who consume electronic media in bed are at higher risk for insomnia," they write.
There is anecdotal evidence about how mobile phones impact sleep, but there is no real, concrete evidence. More research is needed to confirm whether there is correlation between phone usage and insomnia. The studies in this area tend to be quite small. Andrew Przybylski from the University of Oxford told the i that he is not convinced about the links.
He said: "The possible effects of screens on sleep are likely to be very small and this means that you need a large sample of people in your experiment to detect on effect.
"Most people can remember the handful (or more) times they've kept themselves up so it has intuitive weight. That means scientists might not give relatively flimsy methods the scrutiny they deserve."
While the experiments have had small sample sizes, and therefore may not be too reliable on determining the link, there is no harm in putting your phone down - even for a small portion of your day. With a busy mind in an ever-increasing connected world, and a glaring screen in the darkness, it could help to switch off to switch off.