Why Eliminating Technology Before Bed Actually Improves Your Sleep
Arianna Huffington has a secret.
Every night, before she goes to bed, she takes her phone and tucks it into a tiny makeshift bed in another room in her house. It’s actually a charging station, with ports for ten different devices ranging from phones to iPads. But it looks like a sleigh bed and even comes with a blanket to draw up around all your devices.
The idea, Huffington has said, is to create a ritual reminding you to remove phones from your bedroom and spend the evening recharging. By ‘tucking’ your phone into bed, you separate yourself from the device and give yourself permission to switch off.
This might sound pretty extreme, but we think Huffington has a point. As a society, we’ve become much too reliant on technology and nowhere is this more evident than the bedroom. Oftentimes, our phones live on our bedside tables and are the first thing we check in the morning and the last thing we look at in the evening. We’re watching Netflix in bed, we’re replying to emails in bed and we’re scrolling through Instagram in bed.
As we all know, the blue light that comes from technology screens is a huge issue. Also known as short-wavelength-enriched light, it impacts melatonin, which is the hormone that helps us sleep. According to a 2018 study from the University of Glasgow, those who used their phones in bed late at night were also more likely to have insomnia, anxiety and other mental health issues.
It all has to do with circadian rhythm, or our natural sleep cycles. Too much blue light will negatively impact our body’s circadian rhythm, leading to poor quality sleep and, in turn, irritability and poor concentration the following morning.
But it’s not just the blue light from technology that’s the problem. It’s also what we’re doing when we look at our screens.
Part of the reason that Huffington and other experts recommend a technology cleanse at bedtime is so that we can give our bodies the chance to switch off and disengage from the modern world. We’re not supposed to be working all the time. And yet because of the accessibility of technology and the fact that we can now hold a super computer in the palm of our hands, we can work anywhere, anytime. Including our beds.
But that’s just not healthy. It’s not good for us to be on social media for hours in bed when we’re supposed to be decompressing from the day. It’s not good for us to spend all night working on presentations in bed, or firing off replies to email threads, or planning meetings for the next day. Bed is supposed to be the place where we can relax and wind down. It’s supposed to be a place for us to sleep and for our bodies to regenerate and heal. How can we do that if we’re on technology all the time?
Even laying aside the anxiety and stress that working in the bedroom can cause, using technology in bed also keeps us alert and awake, which in turn prevents sleep. We’re not just talking about active technology use either, but passive, too. Simply having devices in the bedroom can wake you up, thanks to all those pings, texts, calls and push notifications. In fact, a study of children found that 72 per cent of those who kept at least one device in their bedroom got about an hour’s less sleep than children who didn’t, and it was all thanks to that constant ping.
So what can you do about it? The good news is that it needn’t be as drastic as buying a miniature bed to tuck your phone into.
It can be as simple as putting your devices away in a drawer or in another room, out of sight and out of mind. It might also be that you keep your phone in the bedroom, but use an app to turn your phone into night mode, where calls and notifications don’t come through until you wake up.
Whatever choice you make, ensure that it’s one that gives you a bit of breathing space between the time that you set your phone down to go to bed, and the moment you pick it up again the next morning. The idea is to allow yourself the opportunity to get into bed, relaxing and, well, sleep.
If you are concerned about your health, wellbeing or sleep, your first port of call should be your GP, who will advise a correct treatment plan.
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