In an age where smartphones are always beside their owners, who does not keep them in close proximity while sleeping? Smartphones have replaced so many traditional devices that we use at night watches, alarm clocks, calendars, flashlights, nightstand books, etc., that separating ourselves from them, even while we sleep, seems almost impossible. Shepard Smith of Fox News admits to using his phone throughout the day from early in the morning right until bedtime to consume information. We all do the same, and leave our phones to charge at night, right beside us, because, of course, we need them.
However, just because it is common to sleep next to our phones, does not mean it is what is best for us. Studies show that our constant need and ability to stay connected creates stresses of its own. These studies provide evidence to show that the radiation phones emit affects the quality of our sleep.
Smartphones allow us read and to share things wherever we are, right from our fingertips, feeding our growing need to always stay connected. As Shepard said, we live in a “bloated media universe” — there is too much information, and we are constantly scrambling to consume and share it. Shepard himself consumes news from various sources first thing in the morning on his phone, reads things throughout the day on his different devices, and then does a “final lap” at night on his Samsung Galaxy before sleeping to ensure that “nothing blew up” that he “needed to stay up for.” We do the same thing ourselves by checking our Facebook and Twitter feeds, our emails and messages, or our news-related applications throughout the day, right before bed, and even in the middle of our sleep!
Research shows that mobile phones pump out electromagnetic radiation, which delays and disrupts sleep. Radiation interferes with our body’s ability to repair itself from any damage suffered throughout the day. Professor Arnetz, Swedish professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led a study on the impact of cell phone radiation, said that radiation can also impact the brain’s stress system. Couple the stress caused by radiation with the fact that our phones inherently bring us stress by allowing us to check and recheck all our applications, and we are now in an infinite loop of anxiety. This keeps us extremely alert and makes it difficult to wind down for the day and fall asleep.
The study led by Arnetz, sponsored by mobile phone companies, found that using a handset right before bed prolongs the amount of time it takes for people to reach a deep state of sleep. This research is significant because anything that disrupts the quality of our sleep impacts our attentiveness and irritability in the short and long term. In fact, sleeping with phones is especially bad for kids and teenagers who typically need more sleep than adults, (and who statistically sleep with their phones close to their heads more than adults). It can cause mood and personality changes, ADHD-like symptoms, and depression in kids.
So what can we do to reduce cell phones’ adverse impact on our sleep cycles? The extreme solution would be to keep all of our electronic devices in a separate room. However, this might not be the most practical solution as, well, we’re hooked onto our devices! Another possibility is to leave it a few feet away from our beds. Still another way is to keep it next to us while sleeping, but to turn it on airplane mode. This way, basic features like the alarm clock will work, but the transmission will be suspended such that the phone’s radiation will have minimal affect on us. Other habits we can try to change include making a conscious effort to reduce the amount of times we check and recheck our email, Facebook, and Twitter feeds. If we did not see it before 11 p.m., it can wait until tomorrow.
No doubt, the issue of sleeping with our smartphones is part of a larger issue we face as a society by being hooked to all our devices 24/7. Previous theories of cell phones causing brain cancer have not been proven and hence, we must not be paranoid about the way phones affects our every move. However, productive sleep in particular is critical in helping our bodies recover from the stresses of the day. Being anxious and checking our phones before and during sleep, along with the fact that phones emit radiation, means that reaching a state of deep sleep is difficult. Hence, little by little, we should make a conscious effort to limit the negative effects of sleeping close to our phones every night.