Sleep 101: How do cell phones mess with sleep?

Unless you’ve been asleep the past few years, you’ve probably heard the advice to turn off electronic devices before bedtime. But why? How does the blue light from cell phones actually mess with your sleep?

How do cell phones mess with sleep?

Snuggling up to your cell phone in bed has been shown to negatively impact sleep. Mostly, this is due to the mental stimulation they lead to. From constantly scrolling through social media or endless emails, these activities at right before bed increase alertness and makes it difficult to relax and fall asleep.

According to a study, published in Cell Reports, for example, researchers determined how “certain cells in the eye process ambient light and reset our internal clocks, the daily cycles of physiological processes known as the circadian rhythm. When these cells are exposed to artificial light late into the night, our internal clocks can get confused, resulting in a host of health issues.”

Simply put: lights on signals wakefulness; lights off signals sleep.

Cell phones and other electronic devices like TVs and computers disrupt sleep by delaying the release of melatonin, which is the signal to start the sleep process (signaled and regulated by darkness.) The bright lights from these devices actually trick the brain into thinking that it’s still daytime.

Consider leaving your cell phone in a separate room to allow your mind and body to recharge, too. If you must be on your phone, turn on the ‘night mode’ to dim the screen and ease the light on your eyes.

Check out our series on sleep for more information: