Do you check your phone first thing when you wake up in the morning? How about right before bed at night? Do you check-in if you have insomnia? I thought so. I do it, too.
But it turns out, this is awful for our minds and bodies. And as my Dad always says, “it’s what’s after the ‘but’ that counts.”
The news on how cell phone light affects your brain and body is not good. It confuses our natural rhythms, which can have surprising consequences. Luckily, there are ways to combat the effects. As you’ll see in this article, paying attention to cell phone light is just as important as paying attention to what we eat.
How Does Cell Phone Light Affect The Brain
You can read your phone anytime, anywhere because it emits blue light. This blue light mimics the sun and tricks our bodies into thinking it’s the middle of the day no matter what time it really is; so if you’re reading Facebook at two in the morning, your brain may think it’s two in the afternoon.
If you’re brain thinks it’s two in the afternoon, then your pineal gland is not going to release melatonin.
This tiny gland and the melatonin it produces really matter. Melatonin is the hormone that controls sleeping and waking cycles. If the pineal gland doesn’t release it, you’ll have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
Why Sleep Matters
If you don’t get enough sleep, your mind and body suffer greatly. These are just a few of the reasons why you need to consider the impact of cell phone light on your sleep.
Lack of Sleep Impacts Your Brain Function
You know that when you’re tired, you don’t make decisions as easily or as well as you do after a good night’s sleep. That’s why we always make an effort to sleep well before major events like job interviews. We want to be on top of our game.
Well, this doesn’t just matter if you’re trying to land a big client at work. It matters every single day.
Sleepiness can be disorienting in ways similar to being drunk. You wouldn’t go to work drunk, so why would you go to work severely sleep deprived? Your decidion making is going to suck either way. Plus, drowsy driving is dangerous. When you’re sleep deprived, you can very easily fall asleep at the wheel or fly through a stop sign because you didn’t see it.
Lack Of Sleep Is Linked To Depression
While researchers are still looking for exactly how this link works we do know that sleep and depression are somehow intertwined. 90% of patients with depression report sleep issues of some kind. Getting more sleep may not cure your depressive disorder, but it can help alleviate symptoms and it can help your mood regardless of whether or not you suffer from clinical depression. It’s just easier to be happy when you’re not sleepy, right?
Lack Of Sleep Can Make You Sick
Not getting enough sleep can weaken your immune system and increase inflammation in the body.
If you sleep seven hours or fewer per night, you are three times more likely to develop the common cold than people who sleep eight hours or more per night. The margin is that slim. If you just got enough sleep, you could be that one lucky person at the office not to catch the fall cold (and the winter cold, the spring cold, and the summer cold) that goes around every year.
Lack of sleep also also increases inflammation markers in the body. If you already have an inflammatory disease like Crohn’s disease you risk a flare-up if you’re not getting enough hours of shut-eye. If you don’t have an inflammatory disease, you’re putting yourself at risk of developing one. Many diseases, like Crohn’s, are thought to be caused by a combination of genetics and an environmental trigger – that environmental trigger could be years of poor sleeping.
How To Limit The Negative Effects Of Blue Light
Okay, now that I’ve sufficiently scared you into thinking that looking at your cell phone right before bed causes severe diseases, let me get to the part where there’s hope for all of us and plenty of things you can do to stay in a love affair with your smartphone and get a good night’s sleep.
The best thing you can do will probably sound like the hardest thing to do. I know it’s going to take me some time to get used to this one:
Turn off all screens two hours before bedtime.
Your cell phone, laptop, and television all emit blue light. All of these screens can trick your body into thinking that it is daytime and stop your pineal gland from releasing that all-important hormone, melatonin.
The best way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to avoid screens altogether for long enough for your body to understand that it’s nighttime and fall asleep naturally.
It sounds impossible (I watch Snapchat right before bed, so I know), but it isn’t. You just need to keep your phone away from your bed and get a hobby like reading to fill the time gap. Humans survived for centuries before screens, so we can do it, too. Pinky swear.
But (and remember, it’s what’s after the but that counts), if you really don’t want to try putting your phone, laptop, and television away two hours before bedtime, there’s new technology to fix your technology problem.
Apps like Twilight adjust the light emitted by your phone depending on the time of day. It actually filters blue light after sunset for your local time so that you can use your phone or tablet and your body will still release melatonin. Using your phone safely right up until bedtime really is as simple as installing and configuring an app.
The Affects Of Cell Phone Light Are Important
So, that’s how cell phone light affects your brain and body. It’s kind of amazing how much one small device that we all use daily can impact the human body in such a negative way if we are not careful. Luckily, the fix is simple: download an app to minimize blue light at night because none of us are ever going to be 100% reliable at turning our phones off two hours before bed.