Most of us are guilty of checking our smartphones a little too often when we should probably be winding down for sleep with a spot of yoga or meditation. We’re all aware that scrolling endlessly though that health food blogger’s pretty Instagram feed probably isn’t the best use of our time, but it’s not really enough to persuade us to stop.
However, once you discover the myriad of health problems that are caused by checking your phone late at night, you might be more inclined to switch it off as soon as you get into bed. From depression to weight gain to insomnia, it turns out that your late night scrolling sessions could be a lot more damaging than you’d expect.
A recent study of nearly 850 Flemish adults found that using a mobile phone after the lights were turned off was associated with worse sleep quality, insomnia, and symptoms of fatigue. But despite the growing body of evidence that proves blasting our eyes with light from our phones right before sleep is a bad idea, the majority of us still do it.
Dr Dan Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, told Business Insider: “People are exposing their eyes to a stream of photons from these objects that basically tells your brain, ‘stay awake’. That light beam tells your brain ‘don’t secrete melatonin yet, it’s not time for sleep’.”
By disrupting melatonin production, the light from your smartphone can disrupt your sleep cycle in a similar way to jet lag. Given enough time, it can even cause depression and insomnia.
If we get less than seven hours of sleep a night, our glial cells stop being able to clean up the toxins our brain cells produce. In over 95 per cent of people, these toxins simply remain in the body. While most of these toxins’ effects are the predicable ones you’d expect from lack of sleep, one effect that might come as a bit of a shock for some: weight gain.
According to Dr Siegel, lack of sleep messes up your insulin levels, which directly effect your body’s metabolism. As everyone knows, your metabolism is a key factor in keeping you from gaining weight from the food you eat.
So if you’ve been questioning why losing those last few pounds has been such a struggle, it turns out that your incessant checking of Instagram fitspiration accounts might actually be the problem, not the solution. And those foodie Facebook pages you love looking at so much? They might actually be causing you to gain weight without even getting to enjoy the food!
So how are we supposed to fix this problem? What do we do if we’re about to get to sleep and an urgent email pings into our inbox? Well, to combat the problems that come with using our phones at night, app designers have created several programs that alter our phone’s light.
Apps like f.lux and the night shift mode in Apple’s iPhones adjust the bright blue light tones emitted by our screens, switching instead to a less offensive, warm orange. There’s not a lot of scientific evidence surrounding these adjustments, but the reviews speak for themselves.
Of course, nothing will ever really be better than simply not looking at your phone at all. Why not crack open one of those old fashioned thingy-ma-jigs known as books? I hear they used to be a big hit back in the day. Everyone had at least one. They were almost as popular as Kylie Jenner’s live Instagram feed, and far less likely to make you feel bad about yourself.