In today’s era of smart phones, it is easier than ever to check up on work communication or social messages right before nodding off to sleep. Unfortunately, this practice can affect how quickly you nod off as well as the quality of sleep you are getting.
When you look at a screen prior to going to bed, you are allowing your brain to see ambient light, which gives it the signal that it is not ready to go to sleep. Whether you are checking emails, playing a game, or reading an online book, your brain is receiving a stream of photons, which suggests to it that it is day time and not a period in which it needs to relax in preparation of falling asleep. Your brain, in turn, fails to produce the melatonin that is necessary to help you fall sleep in a timely manner, meaning you take longer to get to your REM cycle or suffer from insomnia once the screen has been turned off. If you find yourself wide-eyed, it is easy to turn the screen back on to entertain yourself or be productive until you are tired. However, you are once again signaling to your brain that it needs to remain awake.
In addition to making you groggy in the morning, a lack of sleep is extremely detrimental to your overall well-being. Having a lack of zzz’s can affect your neurons and glial cells. When you sleep, this is the time your neurons are allowed to rest. It is also the time that you’re glial cells clean up the toxins that are created by the neurons when they are not addressed. Without an adequate amount of sleep, the neurons are not allowed to stop and the glial cells are not allowed to detoxify your body.
When your body is not allowed to complete the necessary clean up processes, the toxins can greatly impair your memory and affect your critical thinking skills. You are less alert and unable to properly maneuver through problems, resulting in a higher likelihood of mistakes being made and work being done more than once. In addition, these toxins can be extremely detrimental to the connections and pathways within your brain. Your body suffers by having the production of insulin interrupted, which can affect your metabolism and other necessary functions. This can result in poor nutrition choices, cravings, and increased weight gain.
What you can do
The ideal way to decrease the impact of your smartphone on your quality of sleep is to turn it off a minimum of an hour prior to going to bed. Do not have any screens on while you are in bed and try to avoid having any of the ambient light attached to your phone in the vicinity of your bed. This includes chargers and other sensors. That allows your brain to slow down and begin increasing the melatonin release, helping you to fall asleep in a natural manner.
If you feel the need to read before hitting the pillow, pick up a good ole’ fashioned book with real pages to flip through. Give your brain respite from the digital world and a chance to regenerate prior to bedtime.