If you go to sleep with your cell phone near your bed, you’re not alone. More and more people are taking their gadgets with them when they tuck themselves in at night – especially since the advent of smartphones. But there’s a good reason to resist the temptation to take your phone to bed with you, even if it means missing a few late-night texts.
Cell Phones: The Risks And Benefits
Cell phones are increasingly being used not just as communication devices, but as a form of assistive technology – cell phones can help you keep track of your appointments and other daily activities, and studies have shown that they can help reduce stress and promote socially supportive behavior(1).
But there’s a downside to cell phone use.
As this relatively new technology develops and people become increasingly dependent on it, cell phone use also complicates our lives – facilitating negative and stressful interactions like cyberbullying, causing cell phone addiction, and even resulting in sleep disorders.
“Cell phones offer historically unique opportunities for maintaining unrestricted and spontaneous contact with others,” one team of researchers writes(2).
“However, like any other phenomenon, there appear to be some potential psychosocial risks with cell phones. These risk include the personal stress of responding to and maintaining unrestricted and immediate contact with others; possible sleep disturbances related to the anticipation of use after lights out, feeling keyed up after cell phone conversations, and/or biologically mediated changes in sleep structure related to the electromagnetic fields generated by cell phones; the facilitation of cyberbullying; and overuse/misuse.”
Are Cell Phones Disturbing Your Sleep?
One of the easiest things to quantify with the advent of cell phone technology has been their effect on our sleep – and the effect isn’t good, most studies seem to conclude.
One prospective cohort study linked cell phone use among young adults not just to sleep disturbances, but to depression and anxiety as well(3).
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Another study of cell phone use in university students found that cell phone addiction could lead to an increase in sleep disturbances(4).
Finally, a nation-wide cross-sectional survey of Japanese adolescents concluded that “the use of mobile phones for calling and for sending text messages after lights out is associated with sleep disturbances among Japanese adolescents.”(5)
The mechanics of how cell phones contribute to sleep disturbances are laid out in a recent youtube video(6), explaining that people who wake up in the middle of the night are likely to stay awake longer if they have their cell phones by their bedsides – and that text message and phone call alerts can cause sleep disturbances as well.
Cutting Down On Technology Use For A Better Night’s Sleep
The conclusion to all of these studies seem obvious – don’t take your cell phone to bed with you! – it’s not necessarily as simple as it seems. Many people are attached to their phones, especially in the age of smartphones that can double as miniature computers, giving us access to games, the internet, and more.
There’s also the matter of how normalized cell phone use is. While most of us don’t think twice about taking our phones with us everywhere, the matter of how to tell when your cell phone use is becoming problematic can be complicated.
One study suggests adopting a specific structure for measuring Problematic Use of Mobile Phones, or PUMP(7) – it has been met with some success in Asia, but has yet to be adopted in the United States.
Still, the evidence does seem to consistently point towards the notion that if you use a cell phone regularly, you should be making a concerted effort to leave it behind when you go to bed.