Most of us sleep with our phone within reach. In fact, a 2015 report on “Trends in Consumer Mobility” showed that 71% of American adults regularly go to sleep with their phone next to them, meaning that they leave it on their nightstand, on their bed, or in their hands. It’s highly likely that this number has only increased since then, due to the increased prevalence of smartphones in our lives.
This is a problem, because keeping your phone next to you in bed can lead to a variety of sleep, health, and productivity issues. In the following article you will learn why you are better off putting your phone out of reach when you sleep, and what you can do to reduce its negative effects if you decide to leave it there anyway.
Why sleeping with your phone next to you is a problem
There are a few main reasons why keeping your phone within reach when you’re in bed is bad for you:
- You’re more likely to browse your phone, which makes it harder for you to fall asleep, and reduces your sleep quality. The negative impact of electronic-media usage before bedtime is well-document, and occurs due to a multitude of reasons.[1,2,3,4,5] Because of this, avoiding using your phone and other electronic devices before you go to sleep is considered to be an important aspect of sleep hygiene, which improves your sleep quality.[6,7]
- It increases the temptation to use the phone if you wake up throughout the night. Normally, you would want to just go back to sleep. However, if you have your phone nearby, you now have the temptation to lie awake and browse Facebook (or perform any other pointless activity), until you eventually fall asleep again. This is obviously not good for your sleep.
- It makes it more likely that your phone will be the first thing you see in the morning. The same survey from earlier also shows that 35% of American adults check their mobile device as soon as they wake up; this number is likely higher among smartphone users and younger demographics. It’s not inherently a bad thing, but you should consider whether this is what you want for yourself, or of it’s only something you do out of habit. If you find yourself immediately jumping into email/Facebook/whatever as soon as you wake up, think about how this makes you feel in terms of anxiety and pressure, and about how this impacts your productivity, since you’re now starting your day by cramming this stuff into your head.
Because of these issues, it’s better if you keep your phone out of reach when you go to bed. The further it is, the less temptation you will have to look at it before, during, and after you sleep. You can also take into consideration how its placement will affect your morning routine, and put it somewhere where it won’t be one of the first things you look at in the morning.
If the main reason why you need your phone next to you is so that you can use the alarm to wake up, you should definitely consider getting a separate alarm clock instead.
What to do if you decide to keep your phone next to you
A lot of you will probably decide to keep using your phone in bed for various reasons, and that’s okay. Below are some simple tips which can help you reduce the issues associated with doing this:
- Use an app to filter out blue light from the phone screen. While exposure to light before bedtime is bad in general, exposure to blue light leads to the most issues in terms of sleep quality. By filtering it out, you solve a big part of the problem, without much effort on your part. Read this article to understand why blue light causes problems, and to get some simple recommendations on apps which filter it.
- Turn off the sound on your phone. This prevents late-night messages from interrupting your sleep or waking you up. Obviously, you should turn off ‘vibrate’ as well. If you must keep the alarm activated, most phones will allow you to disable general sounds while leaving the alarm sound enabled.
- Turn on airplane mode and turn off the WiFi. This can also help reduce the amount of sound coming from your device (with the potential exception of some notifications). More importantly, this removes the temptation to check messages/emails or to look at things online.
- Use an app that blocks other apps during set hours. This is especially helpful if you have a specific site/app that you know is problematic (e.g. something that you browse for hours to procrastinate going to sleep).
Summary and conclusions
- Keeping your phone next to you in bed can lead to problems falling asleep and reduce sleep quality.
- It can also cause anxiety and productivity issues if it’s the first thing that you look at in the morning.
- If your main reason for keeping your phone within reach while you sleep is using it as an alarm, consider getting a separate alarm clock instead.
- If you decide to keep your phone next to you, there are some things you can do to reduce its negative effects, such as using apps that filter out blue light, or turning on flight mode.