The next time you can’t sleep, the solution could be simple – move your mobile phone off the bedside table and out of your bedroom altogether.
Eight out of ten of us keep our mobiles on overnight, and around half use our phone as an alarm clock.
But experts are concerned about the effect this is having – at the very least it makes us ‘hypervigilant’ so our sleep is more likely to be disturbed and we end up not getting enough of the restorative sleep we need. But it might also trigger insomnia and other sleeping problems.
Most people will sleep better if the bedroom is kept free of mobile phones and other electronic devices. there are suggestions that sleeping with your mobile by your bed may cause dizziness and headaches.
The main problem with mobile phones in the bedroom is light, particularly the kind produced by the bright, high-quality screen on modern phones. It interferes with the body’s natural rhythm, effectively tricking our bodies into believing it’s daytime.
Light stimulates cells in the retina, the area at the back of the eye that transmits messages to the brain. The light-sensitive cells inform our body what time it is. This controls the release of the hormone melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy, and the waking hormone, cortisol.
All artificial light, whether from standard light bulbs or fluorescent strips, is thought to inhibit the release of melatonin, keeping us awake longer. But light from mobiles may have a greater effect. Why? Most of us think of normal light as white, but it’s made up of different colors of varying wavelengths. And the light emitted by phones, tablets and e-readers contains a great deal of blue – this means it has a more stimulating effect.
This is why reading something on a phone or tablet before bed could be more likely to keep you awake than reading a book with your bedside light – and it’s why sleep experts advise a ban on screen time two to three hours before bed.
We sleep in cycles of 1½-2 hours, with brief moments of waking in between that normally go unnoticed. But in these brief waking moments, any outside stimulus has the potential to drag you out of sleep – for instance, a flash of light or vibration of your phone from a text message at the wrong moment could make you fully conscious.
If you then check your phone, you’ll be stimulating the cognitive parts of your brain, too, which really will stop you sleeping
Definitely taking your phone to bed is not going to help you sleep. So, if you’re struggling to switch off – switch it off.