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The Effects Of Your Phone On Sleep Quality and Brain Function

Using your phone before bed negatively impacts your sleep quality, mental health and brain function.

Most of us are guilty of using our phone before bed. Whether it's watching Netflix, falling into a TikTok hole or replying to emails - we've all been there. But did you know that using your phone before bed can actually harm your sleep and brain function?
 
Key Takeouts
  • Good sleep quality is essential for keeping healthy, focused and energised
  • Using your phone before bed has been linked to weaker cognitive function, lower mood and increased anxiety and depression
  • Blue light emitted from your phone suppressed the production of melatonin (the hormone that makes us feel sleepy) and negatively affects sleep quality
 
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The importance of sleep

Sleep is crucial for regulating mood, appetite and brain function. When you're asleep, your brain stays busy. It repairs itself, rewires nerve cells and retains information and memories.
A good nights sleep is also critical in keeping your body healthy. It helps regulate hormones, controls inflammation and wards off chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Essentially, sleep is one of the most important activities to keep us healthy and productive.

How using your phone before bed negatively impacts your sleep

UK adults spend an average of 8 hours 41 minutes a day on screens - that’s more time than many of us are asleep.
A whopping 90% of us admit to using our phones within an hour of going to sleep. Yet using your phone before bed can make it harder to fall asleep, ruin the quality of your sleep and cut your sleeping time short.
 
Turning off mobile devices
Turning off mobile devices

1. Reduces melatonin secretion

The blue light emitted by screens makes it harder for our brains to release melatonin, the hormone that make us feel sleepy. Staring at a bright screen just before you try to fall asleep actually suppresses melatonin release by up to 22%, making it harder for us to fall asleep.
Not only that, using your phone before bed keeps you alert which means you won't naturally feel as sleepy. In one study, people who spend a lot of time on their phone before bed took longer to fall asleep, had less REM sleep and felt more tired during the day.

2. Causes sleep deprivation

You might get into bed at 10pm, but do you actually go straight to sleep? Or do you have a quick ten (or thirty) minute scroll to 'relax'. You're not alone. 47% of adults admit to missing out on quality sleeping time due to using their devices. ⁠More time spent scrolling equals less time spent sleeping.
 
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3. Weakens cognitive function and brain health

Using your phone before bed causes insufficient sleep that weakens many cognitive functions, “including memory, concentration, and attention” which are vital for everyday activities.
It can also give rise to brain fog. Brain fog feels like you and your thoughts are playing hide and seek. You know they're there, but you just can't find them.
Poor sleep due to phone usage has also been linked to weaker workplace performance. Getting too little zzz’s can leave you feeling uninspired, uncreative and can also increase the likelihood of workplace conflicts. No thank-you!

4. Worsens mental and physical health

Using your phone before bed for work emails or social media has been linked to not only poorer sleep, but increased risk of anxiety and depression. Worrying about work, your body image or FOMO isn't great for your brain before sleep.
Lack of sleep can also cause an increase in appetite and cravings for high-carb foods. It's a big driver of your appetite and can lead to weight gain and obesity.
Eye strain and headaches are another symptom of smartphone usage. Staring at a screen all day isn't good for us, and actually causes us to blink less. It can also give us headaches, neck ache and shoulder ache.

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep

Its recommended that adults should clock between 7-9 hours sleep a night to function properly. So those late night scrolling habits and Netflix bingeing - probably not going to help you get the to-do list done tomorrow.
You've probably felt the effects of not getting enough sleep. Your brain struggles to concentrate when it's not been rested, so you'll likely be unproductive and forgetful. Not great for your work performance or social interactions. Long term lack of sleep has also been linked to anxiety, depression and mood disorders.

3 ways to get better, deeper sleep

Struggling to sleep can be extremely frustrating. Luckily, there's a few things you can do to help sleep like a baby. Avoid: phone usage, booze and eating too much before bed.
Starry night at Unplugged Cabin
Starry night at Unplugged Cabin

1. Stop using your phone before bed

You guessed it. Avoid using your phone at least 1-2 hours before bed. The blue light emitted from your phone can interfere with your body's natural circadian rhythm. Instead, throw on a good podcast, read a book or listen calming music. Try this 24 hour lo-fi soundtrack.
We really recommend leaving your phone out of the bedroom to remove temptation. If you use your phone as your alarm to wake in the morning, replace your phone with an old school alarm clock instead.

2. Avoid large meals and alcohol before bedtime

Try not to eat a lot before bed—especially foods high in sugar, carbohydrates or protein (yes, this includes chocolate). If your body is working to digest food, it can interrupt your sleep cycle.
Avoid alcohol too. Although initially it acts as a sedative, alcohol can disrupt the last stage of your sleep cycle (REM) and make it more difficult to wake up in the morning. Also make sure you're drinking enough water in the day, being dehydrated can make it harder for your body to produce melatonin.

3. Stick to a sleep cycle

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. Your body falls into a sleep-wake cycle, so being consistent with your sleep habits will lead to a better nights sleep.
 
Low light cabin to help sleep cycles
Low light cabin to help sleep cycles
 

Unplugged is a digital detox brand that kickstarts your journey on reducing your digital dependency. With off-grid cabins only 1-2 hours from city life, you can lock your phone away and switch off for a 3 nights digital detox. Our luxury beds nestled next to panoramic windows can help you swap blue light for starlight. Book your digital detox here.
 

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