Time to Make a Change: Smartphones Are Great For Sleep, Said No Science Ever

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Written By: Melissa Fiorenza

No matter how many times I hear that my smartphone is ruining my sleep, I still can’t shake my cell at 10 p.m. There I am, lying in bed, cozy in my PJs, knowing full well that I’ve got a big day ahead of me with lots of work and meetings—and yet, I’m on my phone.

I’m on Twitter. Tweeting about my big day ahead of me. I’m on Instagram, scrolling through my friends’ latest snapshots of their kids, their sushi, their sunsets. I’m on the NYT Crosswords app, even though I know I’ll never accomplish any puzzle between Thursday and Sunday. (That’s a total lie. I still have yet to complete a Wednesday. Or a Tuesday. UGH, they are so hard.) Or I’m on my Kindle app, re-reading sentences at least twice, because my eyes are half mast and I’m not really that invested in the book.

If you’re like me, then what is our problem?! I guess we think our sleep really isn’t being affected? That we function just fine the next day, so why say goodnight to Google before we’re feeling ready?

Well, the truth is, we’re in the wrong. It’s time to drill it into our heads that science does in fact say our smartphones are killing our Zzzs. So on that note, here’s a plan.

First, a list of irrefutable evidence and articles composed in the last few years. I’m hoping that by compiling this list, I’ll finally do my brain a solid and tuck my iPhone away on the nightstand long before my head hits the pillow. You with me? Read on.


Reading Material:

Your smartphone may be hurting your sleep (CNN)

Best excerpt: “About 35% of those who used their smartphones for shorter amounts of time than average had sleep difficulties, compared with 42% of those with average or greater than average use. And poor quality sleep was more likely for participants who used their smartphones near bedtime.”

More Science Says Smartphones Spoil Sleep (Live Science)

Best excerpt: “But in particular, smartphone use around bedtime was linked to lower sleep efficiency and longer time needed to fall asleep, according to the study. This finding suggests that ‘the relationship between overall smartphone use and sleep may be driven by exposure near bedtime,’ the scientists, led by Matthew Christensen, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote.”

How smartphone light affects your brain and body (Business Insider)

Best excerpt: “Our bodies naturally follow a cycle that allows us to stay awake and alert during the day and helps us get essential rest at night. But when we look at these screens as we're getting ready to sleep, our brains get confused. Bright light can make the brain think it's time to stop producing melatonin, a hormone that gives your body ‘time to sleep’ cues. By disrupting melatonin production, smartphone light can disrupt your sleep cycle, almost like an artificially induced jet lag. That makes it harder to fall and stay asleep—which could lead to serious health problems.”

Do smart phones affect sleep? (Psychologist World)

Best excerpt: “Avoiding the use of gadgets close to bedtime has been proposed as a way of reducing our exposure to blue light, with some suggesting a period of upto 3 hours’ gadget-free time before sleep in order to allow melatonin to take its effect on the sleep cycle naturally.”

Nobel-winning sleep research: To avoid disease and live longer, don't take phone to bed (CNBC)

Best excerpt: “‘There definitely are correlations between this late sleep pattern and a variety of secondary diseases, not all of which we understand,’ said Alina Patke, a research associate at Rockefeller University and the lead author on the night owl study conducted at Young's lab. ‘People who have this preferred late chronotype, this night owl behavior,’ tend to score higher on measures of depression and are also more likely to suffer from other serious conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and obesity.”

Our Plan:

So here’s the plan we’re all going to follow. A sleep-sans-cell challenge, if you will. First and foremost, pick a bedtime to go off of, then try this:

Night #1:

Set an alarm on your phone that signifies it’s time to turn off and put away your phone 15 minutes before your bedtime.


Night #2:

Same thing, but 30 minutes before bedtime.


Night #3:

Quit the phone an hour before bedtime. Getting anxious? Fingers shaking? Have a glass of water, try a meditation.


Night #4:

One and a half hours before bedtime. Did you fall asleep sooner?!


Night #5:

Two hours before bedtime. Take note: how do you feel the next day? Are we getting carried away yet?


Night #6:

2.5 hours before bedtime.


Night #7.

3 hours before bedtime. Haha, I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous even just WRITING that.


Plan B

Pick the time that works best for you, because let’s face it, we need our phones for certain reasons. But at the very least, a few tips:

  • On your iPhone or iPad (iOS), use Night Shift. Night Shift automatically shifts your screen’s hues to warmer colors at night. The Twilight app works the same way on Androids.

  • Check out darkmodelist. There, you’ll find a list of apps that support dark mode—so your apps are still visible but dimmed for your eyes’ protection.

  • Promise yourself you’ll try to put your phone down before bedtime, and never, ever, let it keep you up past your bedtime.

We can do this, guys. Take back your night! Let’s start tonight.