I’ve always been a light sleeper. The tiniest speck of light, and I’d be done for. But a few years ago it became worse. Even with my eye-mask (yes I had resorted to an eye-mask), I was still tossing and turning. Melatonin helped, but it wasn’t something I wanted to rely on every evening.
I started to delve into possible contributors: stress, mood, and room temperature were a few of the very non-helpful reasons. However, I wasn’t buying it. I had burned lavender incense, started listening to tranquil new-age music, and created a perfect climate in my room. Nothing was helping, but then I stumbled upon a study that gave me pause.
In 2007, researchers from across the globe came together to study communication signals on self-reported symptoms and sleep. What they uncovered was troubling. Essentially, people who are exposed to wi-fi, cellphone waves, and any type of artificial energy have a more difficult time reaching their first cycle of sleep. In addition, participants in the study suffered from more self-reported symptoms, such as headaches, as well (Progress in Electromagnetics Research Symposium).
I’ve always felt uncomfortable standing near a running microwave and this latest tidbit confirmed the suspicion I had regarding those unnatural rays. However, I felt that it was a bit of a stretch to say that the waves from my cellphone were causing me to stay awake. I used to sleep with my phone under my pillow, but even by moving it to my dresser there was no perceivable difference.
It was an interesting theory, but could it possibly be true? Over 65% of Americans own a smartphone, so that couldn’t be a correct assumption, right (Pew Research Center)?
In 2008, one of the first studies was published which confirmed that radiations emitted from mobile devices were giving consumers headaches and interrupting vital sleeping patterns. To say this was slightly disturbing would be an understatement. Studies before had been merging cell phones, internet, microwaves, and any other energy frequency into one group. But now research had been breaking them down into specifics. (The Economic Times ).
I had never had a headache after I talked for hours on my phone. I mean of course I’d get a slight twinge after I’d been on my laptop, but this was just because I’d been squinting my eyes. I may have trouble sitting still at work, but I can easily pass three hours online shopping or planning for my next vacation at home.
I knew that there was zero chance I would give up my smartphone, so I disregarded it as a reason for my sleepless habits.
Flash forward a few years. It was still just as difficult to fall asleep. I was laying in bed, the blue light illuminating my room when I saw a Facebook post declaring cell phones to be the root of recent sleeping disorders. With a title like that of course I clicked.
A 2013 study performed by Dr. Charles Czeisler, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical Center School, revealed a problem that’s been associated with all phones – electric lighting.
Czeisler presents the idea that our eyes have two purposes: vision and sleep inducement. When light begins to slip away, at dusk, sleep-promoting neurons are activated. However, when we are staring at our phones at this hour chemicals are released that nullify the natural melatonin our body exudes when it’s time for sleep. All of these factors, when combined together, reduce sleepiness, increase awareness, and ultimately interfere with sleep (Charles Czeisler).
People that use smartphones after 9 pm, which would most definitely be me, have found that they receive a decreased sleep quantity and quality at night. This then transfers over to the next day at work. So you can guess what comes next, work productivity decreases and the cycle continues.
So I decided to test out this theory. I put my phone down around nine or nine-thirty. I didn’t necessarily go to bed, but I just engaged in a smartphone and television-free evening.
That evening I slept the best I had in weeks. It was a delightfully delicious slumber. I tried this for a few more days and from then on I have never turned back.
Electric lighting…who would have thought that was a real thing, but it makes sense.
So tonight, try sleeping without your phone. I know it’s a security blanket but trust me. A week from now you’ll be one of the perkiest people at your work, and your productivity will skyrocket.
Even if it doesn’t, your body will be thanking you.