Sleeping with your phone next to you

Why you shouldn’t sleep with your phone next to you

Is your phone the last thing you look at before you go to sleep and the first thing you reach for in the morning? Do you instinctively check your phone when you wake up in the middle of the night?

According to research by the social scientists at the Pew Research Centre in America, 90% of young people (18 to 29 years old) in the US sleep with their phones on or next to their beds. 

This figure drops to 70% for adults aged 30 to 49 and 50% for those aged 50 to 64.

So, it’s fair to say that many of us are guilty of using our phones too close to bedtime, but is it preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep? If you regularly wake up feeling tired and groggy, the culprit could be your phone.

In this blog post, we look at why you shouldn’t sleep with your phone next to you and how to break the cycle of checking, reading and responding to messages after lights out.

Why you shouldn’t sleep next to your phone (or use it before bed) 

Research suggests there is a link between using your phone before bed and having a bad night’s sleep. Here are three reasons why sleeping with your phone could stop you from getting a full forty winks. 

1. Using your phone in bed interrupts your natural sleep cycle 

Your phone is one of many devices with an LED screen that emits a ‘blue light’. This type of light wave is harmful at night because it can trick your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

It affects your body’s natural production of melatonin – the hormone that tells your body it’s 

time for sleep. So, it’s no surprise that looking at your phone after dark can make it harder for you to drop off. 

Exposure to blue light can also affect how much time you spend in the REM stages of sleep. This is when your most vivid dreams occur as your brain sorts through what you’ve done that day and commits things to memory. 

Over the long term, this kind of disruption to your sleep-wake cycle (also known as your circadian rhythm) can leave you feeling run-down and vulnerable to illness. 

2. Charging your phone next to your bed is a fire hazard 

It makes sense to charge your phone while you’re not using it at night, but having it plugged in next to your bed or sofa bed could be a fire hazard. Though it’s rare for a mobile phone to catch fire, the consequences of it happening while you’re asleep could be catastrophic. 

Fire officers in London report dealing with 24 fires every week caused by charges, cables, and batteries. They’re talking specifically about lithium-ion batteries used in laptops, phones, and other portable electronic devices. 

They have this advice for you when charging your phone:

  • Use the charger that came with your phone, and if you need to replace it, use one recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Do not leave your phone on charge passed its charge cycle. In other words, when it’s finished charging, unplug it. 
  • And finally, never cover your device while it’s charging, or you risk it overheating.

3. Using your phone in bed can make you more alert 

There was a time when people fell asleep reading a book, but today you’re more likely to find them watching Netflix in bed or scrolling through their social media feeds.   

Unlike watching TV, where you’re a passive viewer, using your phone requires you to be engaged. This kind of stimulation can make it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep.

That vicious cycle of ‘check, read, and respond’ can tempt you to look at your phone just as you’re about to fall asleep. This puts you on high alert – worried that you might miss a call or a notification. 

Using your phone in bed

How to stop using your phone at night 

If you’re waking up feeling groggy and poorly rested, it might be time to change your routine.

Start by reducing the amount of time you spend on your phone in the hours before bed to limit your exposure to blue light. Use this screen-free time to create a relaxing environment that lets your brain know it’s time for sleep. 

Banishing your phone from the room entirely will help you get a better night’s sleep, but if that’s not possible, put it on airplane mode, so it doesn’t disturb you during the night.

This will give you a much-needed break from notifications, calls, and texts, and you can keep using your phone as an alarm clock.   

How far should I keep my phone away from me while sleeping?

While you sleep, keep your phone out of arm’s reach, at least three feet away from your bed. This will make it harder for you to grab it as soon as you wake up, and you can start to break those bad habits.

Is it harmful to sleep next to your phone? 

Mobile phones give off a small amount of electromagnetic radiation, similar to a microwave oven. Even in aeroplane mode, your phone is still trying to connect to the nearest mast and continues to emit a degree of radiation. 

Most people would agree that mobile phones are safe, but it’s still too early to know what health risks they may pose in the long term. If you are worried about your phone’s radiation, turn it off at night or move it away from your bed.

Whether you’re worried about radiation or not, it’s one of many reasons you shouldn’t sleep with your phone. At the very least, by moving it away from your bed, you might get a better night’s sleep!