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Read our third instalment on social media and the impact on mental health. This time we’re taking a look at effect on sleep.

Is your phone the last thing you look at before you go to bed at night and the 1st thing you check when you wake up in the morning?

Do you even check in the middle of the night, woken up by the alerts of Snapchat, Facebook or a work email?

A good nights sleep is vital for all of us: teenagers need it to help their brains develop, and whatever age we are, feeling tired and unrested can lead to poor concentration, increased irritability and ultimately can start to affect our mental and physical health.

So how can using our phones and mobile devices be responsible for a bad nights sleep?
  • Our screens emit blue light that mimics the light of daytime. When we are exposed to this light at night our brains limit the production of melatonin, which is the responsible for instructing us to sleep. No wonder then, that we struggle to fall asleep when we are using our phones for bedtime reading!
  • The use of social media and emails at bedtime can make this problem even worse: it involves interactive screen time and scrolling that engages our brains and keeps them even more active.
  • Even over use of our phones during the day can impact upon sleep. We are less likely to be engaged in other activities, particularly physical activity, that is known to help us to sleep better.
  • The use of mobile phones has had a significant impact on our old bedtime routines. We don’t wind down like we used to: reflect on our day, alone or with our partners. Hence, when we do finally put our phones down (next to our beds!) our minds have not had the chance to process the day in a healthy way. We are left with racing thoughts and vivid dreams as the brain tries to sort itself ready for the next day.

Take yourself back to childhood when your parents would instill a bedtime routine: maybe a warm bath, a cup of milk and a story. They did this for a reason and millions of parents continue to follow it with their children today-it helps the brain prepare for sleep.

What can we do to get back into good habits and enjoy a good nights sleep?
  • The most obvious thing to do is to keep your phone somewhere else at night. If this feels too much of a big step then set yourself a time that you will put it down and switch it to silent.
  • If you feel tempted to check your phone at anytime during the night reflect on what you are doing and why. Has it been of benefit? How has it impacted on your sleep.
  • If you use your phone as an alarm buy an alarm clock!
  • Start a bedtime routine, over time this will send a message to your brain that it is time to sleep.

It is difficult to break habits, but the 1st step is to become more mindful of what these habits are and how they help or hinder us. And remember, there are few things as nice as a good nights sleep.