Want a better night’s sleep? Put down the phone.
When she was in eighth grade, Rebecca H. of Oakland used to look at her phone late into the night, and sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, flipping through Instagram and Snapchat, delaying her sleep and feeling tired and cranky in the morning.
“Social media sucks you in,” she said. “You don’t even realize it.”
Rebecca is far from alone.
Common Sense, a nonprofit in San Francisco, reports research in its “The New Normal: Parents, Teens, Screens, and Sleep in the United States” indicates 68 percent of teens and 74 percent of parents now take their mobile devices to bed with them — with 29 percent of teens actually sleeping with the tech tucked in with them. And more than a third of teens and more than a quarter of parents wake up during the night to check the devices for something other than the time, the research found.
“At a time when the research community is raising alarms about the health consequences of inadequate sleep, this new research from Common Sense provides yet another proof point of the many ways that our use of technology can impact our health and well-being and how technology is rapidly changing the family dynamic,” said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. “If technology harms our health and relationships, we need to change our ways. It’s as simple as that.”
What the research found is that screen time usually doesn’t stop in the hour before bed, even though doctors and researchers recommend it. Seventy percent of teens and 61 percent of parents check their mobile device within 30 minutes of falling asleep.
Rebecca fell into this category. It got so bad that she ended up going to the Sleep Medicine Center at Stanford University, where she learned some good tips. Leave the phone outside the bedroom. Stop looking at the phone about 30 minutes before bed. “You shouldn’t be looking at that blue light,” she said. “Now I read a book instead.”
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm.
She also learned a routine is a great way to stay in a better sleep pattern. She tries to go to bed and wake up the same time every day, even if it’s on a weekend. “It’s better to sleep in less,” she said, “and just go to bed at the same time.”
The Cleveland Clinic also has some sleep tips: Get regular exercise, skip the caffeine and the Red Bulls, don’t smoke and drink, and don’t go to bed hungry, which sometimes can be hard for a growing teen.
Rebecca is now 17 and way less obsessed with her phone and much more so with college applications — which are now her predominant source of sleepless night. But in terms of her tech use, she feels has a “normal” usage of it.
“I feel like I know what I’m doing now,” she said. “I’m aware of my usage. And I don’t let myself get sucked in.”