While we’re supposed to wake up energized and go to bed tired, ever notice it’s often the other way around?
If you’re having trouble getting out of bed in the morning but wide awake in the evening, your late-night technology may be to blame.
Oh sure, there could be other contributing factors – like anxiety, diet, caffeine consumption, and age – but ironically, the devices you’re unwinding with in bed could be keeping you up.
Not only could bringing your smartphone or tablet affect how fast you fall asleep, but you might not stay asleep peacefully either. To fall asleep, your body needs an increase in a hormone called melatonin. Problem is, a backlit phone or tablet decreases melatonin production.
On a related note, those who keep a TV on while sleeping might also be affecting the quality of their sleep as any light that comes through the eyelids could increase melatonin. Experts say a non-backlit ebook reader or regular book with bedside lamp is a better way to go.
A related issue with bringing work to bed – phones, tablets, and laptops – is you’re not giving yourself a break from being connected. It’s a condition often referred to as “fear of missing out,” or “FOMO,” for short.
You might want to see what people on social media are chatting about. You hear the “ping” of a text or email after you’ve closed your eyes and so you reach for your device to see who’s writing. There’s a group chat going on and it’s killing you not to be part of it.
Even if you put your device on airplane mode, you might still be tempted to peek if it’s nearby. It’s recommended to leave the gadgets in another room.
While the research isn’t conclusive, another concern with bringing devices to bed is tied to the radiation they emit.
We know wireless smartphones and tablets emit Wi-Fi and/or cellular signals – which is why experts say not to hold one up against your head for long periods of time — so do you really want to be sleeping with one beside your pillow all night? Do your tweens or teens go to sleep with their devices?
Because we just don’t know the long-term effects, many are erring on the side of caution and leaving them out of the bedroom altogether — or at least putting these devices into Airplane mode.
Some protective tempered glass screens for phones and tablets – from companies like iSheildz, Xkin, and RetinaGuard (from $24.95) — have an “anti-blue light” coating that allegedly stops those backlights from decreasing melatonin in your body.
And if you’re running iOS 9.3 on your Apple devices, a little-known Night Shift feature uses your iPhone or iPad clock and geolocation to automatically adjust the colors in the display to the warmer end of the spectrum after dark – which may help you get a better night’s sleep, says Apple. In the morning, the device returns the display to its regular settings.
Not everyone who brings a smartphone or tablet to bed has trouble falling and staying asleep.
In fact, many rely on audio-based smartphone or tablet apps to induce relaxation while your eyes are closed.
Spend some time at the App Store or Google Play and there’s no shortage of downloadable apps ranging from mediation walkthroughs to relaxing “soundscapes” (like crashing waves, tropical sounds or rainstorms) to jetlag apps designed to help tired travelers.
And then there’s audio podcasts and audiobooks you can listen to with the light’s out. As I wrote about in this column a few weeks ago, I’m also a fan of classic “old time radio” plays, those “theater of the mind” shows that are now free to download and listen to on your devices.
Finally, not only could exercise help you sleep better and be more energized for another day, today’s fitness bands and smartwatches could also help you track your overnight patterns.
By wearing an activity tracker while sleeping, the sensors can detect if you woke up during the night, when, and for how long. The information can be seen in chart and graph form, on an app or website, which can be shared with a physician for analysis.
The Basis Peak Fitness and Sleep Tracker ($199.99), for example, is also capable of tracking all phases of sleep – including REM, deep sleep, light sleep and toss-and-turn – offering a deeper level of insight into an important element of overall health.
Many fitness bands and smartwatches can vibrate to wake up the wearer like an alarm clock, without disturbing their partner.