Do you find yourself sleepy by 11pm but still up by 3am? You are not alone. Every night, about 2 to 3 hours before you go to bed, a tiny gland in our brain begins to release a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin tells your body that it’s nighttime and makes you sleepy.
When daylight hits, which is a blue light, it hits the back of your eyes in the morning that tells your brain to stop producing melatonin. You now feel awake at this time and ready to start your day. When blue light fades and it is replaced by darkness and the yellow glow of incandescent bulbs, melatonin begins to release again. That cycle goes on and on. But there’s a problem.
Take a guess what else radiates blue light? The device you’re using to read this now with a screen. Our phones, tablets, laptops or TV’s tell our brains that it is still daytime, and that we should be awake. In other words, whenever we check our phones at night, we’re giving ourselves “jetlag” similar to us traveling to another country with a 12 to 18 hour difference. Screen times, in particular, in the hours before bedtime, keeps us up later and harms our quality of our sleep.
The quality of light is just one way that our phones affect our sleep cycles. Most of the things we do on our phones such as browsing social media, reading the news, playing games, are all stimulating activities. Imagine how difficult it would be to doze off if all of the people you follow on social media were all in your room with some of your friends having a political debate. That’s what you’re doing basically when you bring your phone to bed with you. Phone effects on sleep are rather concerning when you consider the health consequences on chronic fatigue that includes higher risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even early death. Sounds exaggerated? Yes, but I researched about it and it’s all true.
According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, even short-term sleep deprivation can affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information. It may also increase the risk of serious accidents and injury. When we get tired, it’s harder for our brain to filter out distractions. You develop much poorer self-control over your decisions. You can’t tolerate frustration and your brain has difficulty deciding what is important to pay attention to and what doesn’t need your attention.
With short term sleep deprivation not requiring us to have one of those crazy nights, even just a week and a half’s worth of sleeping 6 hours a night instead of 7 to 9 hours can (according to the Division of Sleep Medicine) result in the same level of impairment on the 10th day as being awake for the previous 24 hours straight. This is to say that it can induce impairments in performance equivalent to those induced by a blood-alcohol level of 0.10%.
If you are thinking that this doesn’t apply to you, keep in mind that the more sleep deprived people are, the more vigorously they may insist that they’re not, possibly because their ability to judge their own mental state has been impaired.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about tips on how to lessen your phone time at night with some simple tips I do to fall asleep faster without using my phone as a nightly routine. I went from someone who used to sleep 3-5 hours a day during my call center days from 12nn to 5pm on the regular, to now sleeping from 12mn to waking up between 7 to 9am daily. I can now say that I function much more efficient every day and don’t have the urge to take short naps during the afternoon, or fall asleep when I’m in an afternoon meeting.
Question of the day: How many hours of sleep do you get usually and from what time to what time?