Smart phones give us access to the entire world in a device that fits in our pockets. We use smart phones for everything and can use them everywhere. They give us access to knowledge, entertainment, allow us to stay connected with our friends, and allow us to make purchases from the comfort of our homes.
A recent Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, points out that smart phone apps are designed to purposely keep us glued to screens. This has many detrimental side effects on our mental health and wellbeing. Lack of sleep is also detrimental to our mental health and late-night phone use has been linked with poorer quality of sleep.
There are several factors of smart phone use that can cause poorer sleep quality. The most obvious being that it is so easy to get sucked into a rabbit hole of social media or finish “one more level”. A final check of your phone as you get into bed can quickly eat up precious sleep time.
Another factor with smart phones, or screens in general, is the blue light they emit. Studies have shown a link between blue light and the decreased production of melatonin. This can affect your ability to go to sleep.
Our bodies natural sleep wake cycles are influenced by several factors, one of those being light. As evening approaches our bodies detect a decrease in light and start to release more melatonin – preparing our bodies for sleep. The body produces melatonin throughout the night, reducing the production as morning arrives.
Screen time in the evening can delay the production of melatonin. Because of this we have trouble falling asleep. Lying in bed wide awake many people will reach for their smart phone. They will then get sucked into a social media rabbit hole, again delaying the production of melatonin and robbing us of sleep. A vicious cycle.
Reducing the Effects of Blue Light
Fortunately, smart phone manufacturers have recognised the problem they have helped to create. Updated versions of iOS and Android include tools that can help you to manage time spent on your smart phone (Screentime and Digital Wellbeing). These tools allow you to configure schedules when you can access apps, give you options to reduce notifications in the evenings, and enable low blue or greyscale modes at certain times of the day or night. Having a break from technology a few hours before bed is still the best way to lower your blue light exposure.
If possible, avoid taking your devices into your bedroom. If you are using your device as an alarm clock, be sure to take advantage of the do-not-disturb mode so you are not tempted to see who has just sent you a message or liked a post on instagram. Using Nightshift on iOS and and Bedtime mode on Android can be used to lower the blue light being emitted if you do need to use the phone in the evening.
If the temptation to play one more level of a game is too much it might be best to remove the app from your device entirely. You are also able to limit the use of apps via Screentime on iOS, or App Timers on Android. This could help to combat those late night Candy Crush marathons.
We all use technology in different way. This means there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to limiting screen time. If you find yourself struggling with device use in the evening, try experimenting with the features available and find what works for you. Don’t jump in the deep end, start small and work up from there.