A lot of people struggle with sleep deprivation and some are even battling with insomnia. Over the years we’ve learned that home temperature, our fitness level, our meal plans, the quality of our bed sheets, our stress levels and many other factors all affect our sleep and how well-rested we feel.
However, how do mobile phones affect our sleep?
There is a lot of speculation about the effects mobile phones have and but one trend is easily noticeable even though it might be the real cause – with the increase of smartphone usage there has been an increase in complaints about lack of sleep by the same people that would categorise themselves as “heavy” smartphone users.
What if there was a connection between smartphone use and lack of sleep? Many theorise that there is – from the small, but still important, UV radiation from our screens to the constant need to be updated and connected with friends there are plenty of reasons why we might end up being on our phones up until the early mornings.
As with everything there is a solution for this dilemma. It might not be the best solution but it’s a solution nonetheless.
Putting your phone in airplane mode will help you be more disciplined and will make sure that no pesky notifications get you pulled back to your smartphone just when you were ready to go to sleep. Airplane mode should also help you use your battery less meaning that when you wake up fully rested you will also have a fully charged smartphone at your disposal.
What is airplane mode?
Anybody who owns a smartphone is familiar with airplane mode. When your phone is in airplane mode, it does not receive any notifications.
So airplane mode is a setting which puts your smartphone in a state of disconnectivity as it turns off most utilised features including, but not limited to, calls, SMS/MMS, and any online notifications as it disables both WiFi and mobile data.
It’s almost as if you’ve turned off your phone but more flexible as you don’t need to wait for the phone to boot. All you really need to do is turn off airplane mode and wait for a few seconds.
Oh, and don’t worry. You won’t lose any data or miss out on any new topics or messages sent to you whilst your phone was on airplane mode as all of those notifications and information will be available to you the second your smartphone isn’t using the airplane mode.
Just in case it wasn’t clear why it’s important to block your smartphone from receiving notifications when trying to rest – it’s not just about the sound the notifications make, it’s how we react to them.
The “Notification” reaction
Anyone who owns a smartphone is likely to have lots of apps on it
These apps usually push notifications around the clock, thereby creating a habit for you to check your phone constantly. Not only are these notifications massive distractions, they also entail a certain chemical in your brain that processes stimuli. This chemical is called dopamine.
It’s logical that if you get a dose of dopamine in the middle of the night your brain will start working overtime. You won’t think about how tired you are or what obligations you have tomorrow but what you might start thinking about is that next dopamine high.
Notifications are, at least nowadays, designed in such a way as to increase your dopamine levels. So in the sea of notifications we already get from our friends the applications themselves have a specific time period they notify us in order to incentivise us to do whatever it is they want us to.
Another thing that we all suffer from in regards to our phone is, simply put, our own curiosity. To make things potentially worse, curiosity gets vastly amplified by the effects of dopamine, and before you know it, just checking a text or an email on your smartphone can lead you down a rabbit hole of checking every app on your smartphone, delaying that much needed sleep you’ve been craving for.
Your phone and stress levels
Putting aside our own curiosity and the way notifications have been built to cause a dopamine increase then still need to deal with the stress that comes with owning a smartphone in the middle of the night.
Has anyone started calling you in the middle of the night preventing you from sleeping or waking you from your slumber only to ask a silly question or hang up before you can pick up? It happens all the time and it can be stressful.
And as stress is also a form of stimulant for the brain it will make sleep almost impossible. Without the ability to relax in your own bed falling asleep seems impossible.
Now let’s add everything we discussed so far – the feeling of thrill, curiosity and the potential stress. While you can be enjoying yourself on instagram, or any other social media you are, or talking to friends there is an obvious downside. These activities are sending too many messages to your brain which is why later on, when the fun dies down, you lie in your bed awake at night.
Your phone will use less battery when in airplane mode
With everything we do with our smartphones, be it to stay in constant communication, to run a map application as a rideshare driver, or any other application, we know the importance of the battery power in your phone.
And it is a well known fact that notifications do drain your battery. So logically receiving notifications overnight will quickly drain your battery. Having your smartphone plugged into a charger all night might seem like a good idea but it also might cause some damage to your battery in the long term. So not only will putting your phone in airplane mode help you with your sleep it will also preserve your battery life in the most convenient way possible.
So if you haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a long while and do believe you’ve tried everything you could think of I would strongly encourage you to put your phone away at least one hour before bed time and see if your sleep improves. After at least a week of trying do let us know if you have noticed any improvements with your sleep schedule.
Sebastian Morales is Founder and CEO of Good & Bed. Prior to Starting Good & Bed, Sebastian was an investment banker based in New York City.