How Overdoing Screen Time Ruins Your Sleep & Health
Our lives have inevitably become incredibly intertwined with our handheld computers, and understandably so. For many of us, the first part of our mornings is checking our phones for social media updates and messages. For many, this is also the most important moment of the morning.
According to data from a survey published in this 2017 article, the average American checks their phone at least once every twelve minutes.
There is, however, a decent argument to be made for the utility of cell phones and from that an argument for why they have become such an intimate part of our lives.
The Benefits of Cell Phone Usage
We won’t just be ragging on cellphone use and how it’s a scourge on modern day society. Cellphones, in and of themselves, are not a scourge and offer incredible value and utility, hence their popularity. Social media apps (intentionally designed to trigger dopamine surges and thus get you hooked) and a general lack of discipline around cell phone usage, however, make cell phone addiction a very real thing.
But before we dive into the nitty-gritty of how corporate America strives to keep your brain interacting with a screen, let's look at the positive aspects of cell phones.
The average smart phone today is comparable in computing power to most modern personal computers. Which means that the average smart phone user today has access to more calculating power than the most expensive computers during the mid '80s. As a matter of fact, the average cell phone today is vastly more powerful than the computer that put astronauts on the moon .That may not come as a surprise to many of us who experienced the thrills and heartaches of videos buffering on dial-up connections.
This enhanced computing power has allowed cellphones to become our own personal digital hubs and connections to society at large.
Cell Phones Facilitate Commerce
In the age of influencer sales, the cell phone has become the equivalent of the shovel or a pair of denim jeans from the days of the gold rush. Everyone who is anyone has one.
As a matter of fact, a cell phone is probably the most convenient way to engage in digital commerce in our current day and age. Cellphone apps for currency trading, blogging, dropshipping, eCommerce operations, as well as purchasing products online, have gone beyond commonplace, into the realm of necessity. Even transportation and food can now all be bought, paid for, and coordinated via cellphones.
Functional Extensions of our brains/Working memories
To many, modern cell phones and computers function as extensions of our working memory. Common problem solving, location searches, and calculations can pretty much all be handled with a five second Google search. Not to mention the use of alarms and automated scheduling to stay on track.
If you’re a busy entrepreneur, in the middle of handling a task that has most of your attention or you’re writing a paper as a college student you can see where this function comes in handy. You can have the answers you need at your finger tips while your brain does the more important work.
The Dark Side of Cell Phones and Computer Screens
As with most things, this is a very real dark side to cell phone usage.
“It's as if they're taking behavioral cocaine and just sprinkling it all over your interface and that's the thing that keeps you like coming back and back and back"
Aza Raskin is the inventor of the infinite scroll feature in the news feeds you find on most social media apps. By design, this feature disengages a fair amount of your conscious reasoning, since you don’t have to actively choose to engage in more media.
You simply scroll and the algorithm continues to feed you. Eventually, you come across something you enjoy and you get a little dopamine kick. This encourages you to scroll once more and on the cycle goes.
The social media slot machine. You never know what you're going to get. That's the allure.
Screens Drain Your Sleep
Sleep is one thing that every single human being engages in. The average human being will invest 229,961 hours into sleep over the course of their lives. This roughly equates to about one third of the average human lifespan.
If you’re an all-or-nothing entrepreneur, seven hours of sleep a night might seem wasteful. Of course the amount of sleep necessary for every individual varies, but sleep actually facilitates a number of functions necessary for life and healthy function.
For instance, most adults will experience two to three large surges of growth hormone while sleeping. These surges of growth hormone, facilitate healing, anti-aging and general well-being. Sleep is also responsible for your brain’s ability to consolidate most of the learning you’ve done during the day. Ever fall asleep thinking of a problem and wake up with an answer? Chances are your brain connected some dots while you were catching shuteye.
Your precious cellphone, laptop or PC is a direct threat to the quality of your sleep and all the benefits you receive from it.
The human sleep cycle is significantly impacted by the level of blue light that your retinas are exposed to. In a nutshell, your retinas are constantly assessing the level of blue light hitting them, to make an estimate as to the time of day.
As the sun goes down, the amount of blue light hitting your retinas is supposed to go down with it. As blue light exposure drops, the hormone melatonin, is released causing us to feel sleepy. Thus, coordinating our 24-hour sleep cycle or circadian rhythm. Unfortunately, most people do not stop using their phones as the sun goes down.
In fact, 66% of Americans use their phones at night and I’d bet a pretty penny that these figures are reflected in global cellphone usage as well. The problem with nighttime cellphone use, is that our eyes continue to be exposed to blue light. In many cases, it lasts right up until the point that we fall asleep.
But...we fall asleep. So, no big deal right? That’s not the case.
Exposure to blue light right before sleep, reduces melatonin production and thus keeps us awake longer. This also however reduces the amount of time we spend in the deeper, more rejuvenating phases of sleep.
Not only do you experience less of that oh-so-delicious growth hormone, but your body also has a harder maintaining other hormonal cycles that control appetite, stress, blood pressure and blood glucose levels. Over time, this can lead to significant negative impacts on your health especially as you get older and your risks for serious health issues increase.
Decreased quality of sleep also significantly decreases our ability to think clearly and regulate our emotions. No, you’re not just making an excuse to be upset when you tell someone that you're having a hard time since you didn’t sleep. Your brain literally requires sleep to maintain the self-regulatory mechanisms that prevent temper tantrums and help you keep clear perspectives.
3 Quick Tips for Better Sleep
Now that we’ve gone over some of the basics in regards to screens, sleep, and your health, here are a few proven quick tips for improving the quality of your sleep.
Use Blue Light Blocking Apps
Using blue light blockers at night goes a long way to keeping your sleep schedule healthy. You’ll still have access to all of your favorite apps, videos and social media features, without any risk of poor sleep.
Exercise in the Morning
Dr. Laage-Christiansen of Denmark has conducted extensive research on sleep and highly recommends morning workouts to kick start your day and ensure melatonin release earlier in the evening. Morning workouts sync well with our natural cortisol cycles and help us lead more productive days.
Regular exercise has also been proven to be effective in maintaining a positive mood and improves brain function.
Sleep in the Cold
A study recently conducted at the University of South Australia has concluded that many forms of insomnia could actually be caused by poor body temperature regulation. Adjacent to that, the study provided significant evidence to the claim that lower temperatures help sleep in a profound way. Of course, being too cold is just as detrimental to sleep as being too warm, especially if you sleep uncovered.
Do your best to keep your room around 66 degrees Fahrenheit or 18 degrees Celsius so you can get the best night of sleep you can. We all know how important it is.