About a year ago I posed a question that I had been wondering for a while at that point: Are we addicted to our phones? The responses were overwhelming, but many people seemed to agree that to a degree yes, many of us could be considered addicted to our phones. I myself pretty much knew that once I couldn't hold an everyday conversation without being more concerned about the conversation going on in my pocket rather than one going on in real time that there was probably something wrong with my priorities. Since really addressing the issue, or in the very least talking about it in depth, I've made some changes in my life for the better. In fact, there are certain times now where I would rather not have my phone on hand simply because I know it will be a distraction. But there are still certain times where my phone is all too convenient to access at all the wrong times - like when trying to get some shut-eye.
A lot of people like to do a bit of nighttime reading before going to bed. Growing up, many people would have bed time stories or, for my family, we would watch the news. A lot of people turn to last-minute entertainment before settling in to bed, and whether it's for relaxation purposes or food-for-thought, I don't know, but it's a social norm in a lot of places.
Reading is easy for transitioning from "read" mode to "sleep" mode. Most books have chapters, so when you get to the end of a chapter it's easy to tell yourself, "Okay, this looks like a good stopping point. I'll stop here and pick up where I left off tomorrow." Place a bookmark, lights out and catch some z's.
It gets more difficult when it comes to electronics like laptops, TVs, and most importantly our smartphones.
I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately. As a self-proclaimed professional Googler, I took it upon myself to figure out why I've been having so much trouble sleeping and chose to diagnose myself. Of course, no matter how big or small your medical issue is, you can always expect Dr. Google to diagnose you with some horrible incurable disease before finding any real answers (who knew hangnails could be so dangerous?). So after some careful digging, I may have found that the source of my problem might actually be the one thing I always take to bed with me: my phone.
Research on how blue light can affect the human biological clock has been conducted for several years now. Several reports and studies claim that electronics giving off "blue light" - that is, a light that has a blue tint to it - can throw off our biological clock and makes us more alert no matter what time of day it is. This blue light can be given off by pretty much any electronic, but for me, I believe my biggest issue comes from using my smartphone at night.
Before I started using my smartphone, the Internet was something I would only use on my computer unless I had to use it on my phone. Not only were data packages pricey, but I would hardly consider the Internet on feature phones to be user-friendly. Yes, I did stay up a lot later than normal on nights where I would browse forums or play games, but there was always a point where I got tired of sitting and would just rather lay down. Usually it did not take long after that before I would fall asleep. But since data is now not only of very little concern when it comes to something as simple as web browsing, but also because most smartphones allow WiFi connections, browsing the web on a smartphone has actually become easier and more comfortable than using a computer. Not only is it faster to browse by using a touchscreen, but I can sit or lounge just about anywhere and use my phone comfortably. Right before bed seemed like the perfect time to catch up on some reading.
Yet, it never dawned on me why I would only intend to catch up on the news or current events for 30 minutes or so, and would end up staying awake for several hours. The Internet on a smartphone doesn't give you a good reason to stop, like reading does with chapters, or a computer does with sitting, or TV with the sudden abundance of infomercials from channel to channel (at least, that's what stops me from watching TV). I could sit, lay down, or switch whenever one becomes uncomfortable and never have an issue.
Even when you think you're done, or you finally tell yourself, "Okay, I need to get to bed. Time to put down the phone and get to sleep," some studies have shown that it can take people who have been exposed to excessive blue light up to one hour to finally fall asleep. And during that one hour when you're tossing and turning and trying to figure out why you can't sleep, you can't help but feel bored, and so naturally you want to entertain yourself as to not waste time and... pick up your phone again and continue the vicious cycle. D’oh!
Interestingly enough, some app developers are aware of this issue and have actually created an application, at least on Android, called Twilight. Twilight gives your phone an overall red tint that darkens starting when the sun sets wherever you live. Apparently a red tint is what lets our biological clock know that it's time to start winding down for the day. I only just found this application last night, and the overall reviews seem mostly positive. I downloaded the application early this morning (while browsing my phone because I couldn't get to sleep) so we'll see how it plays out over time.
Readers, have you found that you've been staying up later than usual since using your smartphone late at night? Share your thoughts this with us in the comments below!