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Avoiding Sleep Disruption During the Holidays

Smartphones make it easier than ever to be connected to the Internet at every waking moment. While that might make you feel like you’re always on top of things, that 24/7 connection to technology is actually unhealthy when you’re trying to fall asleep.

The problem starts with the fact that 71 percent of people sleep either holding their smartphone, having it in bed with them, or having it on their nightstand. So many people use their smartphones as their alarm clocks, it makes sense that many would want their phones within an arm’s reach. But when your cell is that close to you, the temptation to check social media sites, work email, and/or the news headlines is often too strong to resist—even if it’s 11:00pm. As a result, you might feel energized from interacting with others or stressed out by something that you read when you should actually be relaxing. That partly explains why people who consume electronic media in bed are at higher risk for insomnia.

That’s not the only reason, though. Smartphones—like laptops, tablets, and televisions—emit something called blue light, which is a type of light that the brain interprets as daylight. The blue light actually suppresses melatonin (a hormone that affects circadian rhythm and should increase when you are preparing for bedtime). The result: Your brain feels stimulated. This is fine if you’re looking at your smartphone’s screen at noon, but if you’re looking at the screen at midnight, your brain is going to get confused and think that the sun is out—making it even tougher to fall asleep.

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Lastly, when the smartphone is in your room, any ringing or beeping from texts or calls (or even simply hearing vibrations or seeing flashing lights from alerts) can jar you as you’re trying to fall asleep and/or wake you up in the middle of the night. Overcome these issues by giving yourself a technology curfew (such as no screen time within an hour before bed), switching to an old-fashioned alarm clock, and keeping your phone in another room overnight (or at least out of arm’s reach).