You’re browsing Facebook and come across a post from a friend complaining that they can’t sleep. You notice they posted it at 1 a.m. Then you realize it’s 2 a.m., you’re reading Facebook from a smartphone in bed, and you’ve never been more awake.
Does this scenario sound familiar? You’re browsing Facebook and come across a post from a friend complaining that they can’t sleep. You notice they posted it at 1 a.m. “Maybe stop staring at a screen, dummy,” you think.
It’s an inconvenient truth for an increasingly connected (and addicted) world, but LED screens are the enemies of sleep. A steady trickle of studies confirm this, the latest being a survey of 9,846 teenagers aged 16 to 19 in Norway, two years in the making and published Monday in the medical journal BMJ Open.
The teens recorded their sleep patterns as well as their technology usage throughout the day, with a focus on the hour before bedtime. The result? What researchers call a “dose-response relationship” — the more you dose yourself with devices, the higher your risk of sleeplessness.
That would explain the popularity of apps such as Twilight for Android, which promises to “harmonize your screen with the sun cycle” — automatically lowering brightness at night, basically. Twilight has more than 74,000 positive reviews in the Google Play store. (Sadly, there is no iOS equivalent unless you jailbreak your iPhone.)
“There are probably multiple pathways explaining the associations between sleep and electronic devices,” the study says. “Media use may directly affect sleep by replacing it due to its time-consuming nature, or may interfere with sleep through increased psychophysiological arousal.”
In other words, it isn’t just the fact that you’re using your smartphone, it’s what you’re doing on it. All that important-looking news and social media may be overstimulating your brain; even a simple game like Candy Crush can raise your heart rate and induce the fight-or-flight response.
Reading on a phone or tablet probably isn’t the best idea, since your brain may associate these devices with more stimulating activities. But if you can handle it, try getting a good privacy screen for the mobile device that reduces glare. Fire up Kindle or iBooks in night mode, then turn the brightness all the way down. Read more…