What the Tech? How smartphones negatively affect our sleep


Do people really sleep text? Sleep shop? Yes, both of those are things, and a new study shows why we might sleep text — it’s because nearly everyone has their phone next to them when they go to bed. 

No one should be all that surprised by the study by Common Sense Media, which found about a third of teenagers are sleeping with their smartphones. Maybe on the pillow or even in their hands and 36% of teenagers say they wake up in the middle of the night to check their phone.

“I think we’re so used to checking our phone so many times a day, that if it’s there, we tend to reach for it and check it,” explained Vanderbilt University neurologist and sleep expert Dr. Beth Mallow. 

According to Dr. Mallow, there are at least two reasons this wrecks a person’s sleep. 

First, the content, whether it’s a text or email or social media, is stimulating which might lead to us not being able to turn off our brains to fall asleep. 

The other? Matlow says: “You get the bright light from the screen and that can suppress levels of melatonin.”

It’s interesting that as bad as this report is about teenagers, parents are even worse in some respects. Sixty-two percent of parents say their phone is within arms reach when they sleep, and 25% of parents say they wake up to check their phone at least once a night.

Dr. Mallow said teenagers and parents ought to try putting the phone out of reach.

“Getting the phone out of the bedroom is really, really important. It’s easier said than done, but it’s a really good habit to say, I’m going to put my phone to bed when I go to bed.”

Dr. Mallow told me it isn’t unusual for people to report texting someone in their sleep or even shopping. There have been a number of reports from people who said they wake up to discover they’ve purchased thousands of dollars worth of items on their phone.

Common Sense Media, the organization behind the research, also found that over 50% of adults know they have a problem with being on their phones too much. 

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