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Is Sleeping With Your Phone Next to You Okay?

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Our phones are like an extension of ourselves. They help us connect, pass our free time, and do our jobs. It’s understandable that we are attached to our phones to the point that we still use them up until we go to sleep. But is sleeping with your phone next to you okay?

The Risks to Your Health

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released information regarding cell phone safety and the data is concerning. Cell phones release and receive signals to and from cell phone towers and form electromagnetic radiation called radiofrequency (RF) energy. 

Some laboratory experiments have suggested that high use of cell phones may be linked to brain cancer, tumors to the acoustic nerves, low sperm count, headaches, and adverse effects on learning, memory, hearing, behavior, and sleep. Studies are still ongoing on this topic and the science is still inconclusive, but it is still worth keeping in mind the next time you decide to put your phone under your pillow at bedtime.

Another way phones can negatively affect our health is through the blue light they emit from their screens. It has been found out by Harvard Health that blue light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. That means overexposure to it, especially at night, throws off the body’s biological clock. As a result, sleep suffers and chronic loss of sleep has been proven to contribute to a number of health problems such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. Additionally, it impairs attention, concentration, reasoning, and alertness.

Sleeping Next to Our Phones: Why We Do It?

This is probably not the first time that you’ve heard about the negative effects of sleeping near your cell phone. This issue has been talked about for years but a lot of people still do it anyway. Here are the most common excuses we hear why people must be next to their phones at all times.

1.“I use my phone as my alarm clock” – This is the most common reason why we want to keep our phones near us when we sleep; because it’s used as an alarm clock. Who wouldn’t want to get up on time? To get around this, buy an electronic or battery operated clock. It would serve the same purpose and it’s less risky.

looking at your phone before you sleep is bad

If you insist on using your phone as an alarm clock, you can put the volume on high and place it on another part of your room. This is also a great trick to prevent yourself from going back to sleep after hitting the snooze button since you have to stand up to reach the device.

2. “What if I miss an important emergency call?” – Place your phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode. When your phone is set on “Do Not Disturb” your device will stop notifications, text alerts and calls from making any noise, vibration or lighting up the phone screen. When it is really an emergency, people will most likely call you twice and your phone will ring on the second call.

3. “I read books on my phone before bed” – Invest in an e-book reader like a Kindle. An e-book reader is a single-purpose device. You can’t browse the internet with it, you can’t answer emails or play games. That means you actually get a lot more reading done because there are fewer distractions! E-book readers also have an e-ink screen that is characterized by high visibility that is meant for reading and low power requirements. You can go on days without charging your device.

Or, you can always go old school and purchase books. I know owning a lot of physical books is sometimes not ideal due to the space that it requires for storage but nothing beats the feel and smell of paper while reading. It just adds magic to the whole experience.

4. “It helps with my insomnia” – This is probably just in your head. As stated above, the blue light from your phone screen contributes to insomnia so scrolling through your newsfeed or playing games will definitely not help you sleep. If you find it hard to sleep at night, try doing the following:

  • Drink warm milk – There’s been a lot of debate if there really is an ingredient in milk that helps the brain produce melatonin which is a hormone that helps regulate our sleep and wake cycle. However, one thing is for certain. It does work!
  • Make your bedroom a haven – Your bedroom should be clean and organized. A tranquil environment will help create a perfect sleeping environment.
  • Eat sleep-inducing foods – According to Shelby Harris, PsyD, director of the behavioral sleep medicine program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y., the best sleep-inducing foods include a combination of protein and carbohydrates. She suggests having a light snack of half a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter or a whole wheat cracker with some cheese 30 minutes before going to bed. 

5. “I like to start my day checking what I missed” – Most of us check our notifications immediately after waking up to know what messages, alerts or news we missed while we were asleep. According to Tristan Harris, Google’s former Design Ethicist, checking your phone immediately after waking up will hijack your morning routine.

“When we wake up in the morning and turn our phone over to see a list of notifications,” Harris writes on his Medium blog, “it frames the experience of ‘waking up in the morning’ around a menu of ‘all the things I’ve missed since yesterday.'”

Don’t start your day playing catch up with yesterday’s events. Leave technology out for 30 to 60 minutes after waking up so you can start your day on your own terms.

If you are used to sleeping with your phone next to you, changing this habit might be a little difficult and will require effort on your part. When you finally end up kicking the habit, you’ll be happier, healthier and more alert than before.

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