Sleep mode: How our phones are keeping us up at night

Sleep mode copyBy Mallory Hopkins |

I’ve always had trouble sleeping. There was always something to keep me up, whether it was a noise outside or just the house settling, my eyes would shoot open and stay that way for most of the night. For the longest time I thought that this affected everyone in the same way. When I was younger it would take me about two hours to be able to relax and drift off into sleep.

I continued to struggle with getting enough sleep up until my early teens, then it started to get worse. I always felt tired, and the bags under my eyes only sank deeper into my skin. Sleep deprivation can cause many health issues I have found. Not only can it affect your day to day performance, but it can also cause acne breakouts, headaches and weakened immune system. I felt these affects and spoke to my mom about how little sleep I got and then realized that it was not this way for everyone.

The next time I went to my doctor for a check-up, I asked her if my sleeping schedule was normal, and if it wasn’t, what I could do about it. She suggested turning out the lights earlier, reading before bed, maybe even drinking some herbal tea, but the thing she suggested that stuck out to me was no screen time within an hour before I go to sleep. At the time I was a teen and my phone was just starting to become my fifth limb.

My doctor said that staring at a screen that close to your face throws off your melatonin levels. Melatonin is what your body automatically releases when it gets dark out to make you tired and put you to sleep. Obviously this would affect your sleep because then you don’t have your brain telling you to go to sleep.

We all do it — just scroll through our phones as we lay in bed. I decided that now that I’m in college, sleep is too important because it affects my brain function and mood. One tip that a lot of people suggested was to leave your phone in another room. I live in a dorm room so there really isn’t a way to separate myself from my phone effectively.

But last week, I decided to try something similar. I left my phone on my desk, went over to my bed, read my book and then went to sleep. The results were almost immediate: When I woke up the next morning I felt more rested. By the end of the week I had a regulated sleep cycle where I went to bed around 11 p.m. and woke up at 8 a.m. feeling rested and refreshed. I was shocked that it worked so quickly and even with someone like me who has had trouble sleeping their whole life.

Even though your doctor telling you to keep the phone out of the bedroom seems mom-ish, and annoying, it actually can make a difference quickly. I would recommend to anyone with sleep issues, especially if it’s affecting your work performance or grades, stop keeping your phone on your nightstand or under your pillow. I know we all do it, but even with a week trial, you’ll see a difference and wonder why you didn’t separate yourself sooner.

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