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Tuesday 26 September 2023 Dublin: 15°C
# live a better life
The sound sleep guide: Move your phone away from your bed tonight
Move it as far from your reach as possible.

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WE’RE ALMOST AT the end of the first week of Live A Better Life.

So how are you feeling about things? Have you found monitoring your phone use interesting? Did you get around to doing the quiz?

And most importantly – how did your phone-free night (or hour) go last night?

Let us know in the comments.

Today, we’re going to look at another way of changing up how we use our phone. We’re going to think about where we keep our phone at night time.

Many of us keep our phones by our beds. That’s because we use them as our alarms, or we’re in a habit of checking our phones last thing at night and/or first thing in the morning.

Tonight, we’re going to try something different: We’re going to move our phone as far away from our bed as is possible (and practical).

According to the Deloitte 2016 Mobile Consumer Survey, seven out of ten 18 – 24-year-olds check their phones in the middle of the night.

Plus, over half of Irish smartphone users check their devices in the middle of the night. A 2015 survey even showed that in the UK, social media use, specifically night-time use, is linked to poorer sleep quality and lower self-esteem, and higher levels of anxiety and depression.

Why are we doing this?

shutterstock_348276713 Shutterstock / TORWAISTUDIO Shutterstock / TORWAISTUDIO / TORWAISTUDIO

Before artificial light was created, we lived our lives by the light of the sun.

But now, we can illuminate our surroundings pretty much whenever we want. And while it’s fantastic we can do that, it doesn’t mean staring at a screen any time of the day is good for us.

As Harvard Health points out:

At night, light throws the body’s biological clock – the circadian rhythm, out of whack. Sleep suffers.

To make things even more interesting, blue wavelengths “seem to be the most disruptive at night”. And that’s the type of light your phone gives off.

(You can read a more in-depth paper on the health effects – including positive ones – of blue light here.)

Now, some phone manufacturers offer a way to reduce the blue lighting on your phone. Check your phone settings to see if that’s an option for you.

But says Harvard Health:

Even dim light can interfere with a person’s circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. A mere eight lux—a level of brightness exceeded by most table lamps and about twice that of a night light—has an effect, notes Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher. Light at night is part of the reason so many people don’t get enough sleep, says Lockley, and researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Blue light can suppress melatonin (a hormone that controls your sleep and wake cycles) levels even more powerfully than other forms of light.

When Harvard researchers and their colleagues conducted an experiment comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light of comparable brightness, they found:

The blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).

Harvard Health recommends avoiding looking at bright screens “beginning two to three hours before bed”, or if you have to use a lot of electronic devices at night, “consider wearing blue-blocking glasses or installing an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night”.

So that’s one major reason for moving our phone away.

The second is that it helps us notice our own behaviour around the phone: do we have to use the phone at night?

  • Does it need to be near us while we sleep?
  • Without it, do we find ourselves reaching for a book before sleep, or chatting to our partner more?
  • Does it affect our sleep in a positive way?

Just like with last night’s phone-free night, we’re not zealots.

Here’s the plan:

shutterstock_318873953 Shutterstock / Toa55 Don't let this be you... Shutterstock / Toa55 / Toa55

Before we go to bed, we will move our phone as far away from us as is practical.

Then, we’ll see what effect that has on our sleep, and our phone behaviour at night and morning time.

Do you charge your phone at night?

  • Think about charging it fully before you go to bed, then moving the phone to the foot of your bed before you go to sleep.
  • Have to charge it near your bed? Put it as far away from you as possible. And don’t check it!
  • Have a socket at the other end of the room? Plug it in there.

Yes, you’ll have to get out of bed to turn off any alarms.

And the benefit of that is you will be awake sooner, so you might find yourself with some extra time in the morning.

Tell us how you’re feeling about this in the comments.

The Live A Better Life series so far>

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