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What to do with your phone at night

What to do with your phone at night

3 min read
  • Phones & technology
  • Sleep

We are a nation addicted to our smartphones. Simply telling people to turn their phones off is probably not going to overcome a cultural (and generational?) obsession with our phones. So if you are a bit addicted to your phone, what can you do about your phone at night?

Recent research

Recent research by Ofcom showed that we can’t bear to be apart from our phones. They found that:

  • 51% of adults and 65% of teenagers use their phone whilst socialising
  • 22% of adults and 47% of teenagers use their phone whilst on the toilet
  • 81% of people never turn their phone off (even when in bed)

Being on your phone in bed is particularly interesting because of its significant impact on the quality of your sleep. We know sleep plays a big part in how well you can concentrate, manage emotions, learn and function the next day.

So here is our advice on how to manage your relationship with you and your phone at night:

You and Your Phone at Night

Don’t have your phone in your bedroom

Recent research found that being on your phone within an hour before bed means that you are almost three times as likely to get less than five hours sleep. One popular objection to this suggestion is that people use their phones for an alarm clock the following day.

If you have your phone in your room, don’t read it in bed

Reading your phone in bed is not a good look. It is important to establish a consistent bed time routine that helps you fall asleep. Reading books or magazines instead of phones and tablets is more likely to lead a less disturbed and more settled sleep.

If you read it in bed, turn down the backlight

Having a bright backlight can stop your brain from releasing melatonin. Melatonin is the sleep hormone and the bright backlight from your phone tricks your brain into thinking it is still daytime. People who turn down the backlight on their phone and hold their phone more than 12 inches from their face consistently get a better nights sleep.

If you turn down the backlight, set yourself a time limit

It’s good to set yourself a deadline. Otherwise, time flies and you can quickly find yourself playing Angry Birds or Candy Crush at 1:00 in the morning.

If you set a time limit, don’t read stories that will make you stressed or alert

One of the best ways to help you fall asleep is to get to a state that is calm and relaxed. If you read stories that make you stressed or alert, you will release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.

These hormones make you feel on edge, something which is not conducive to falling asleep. Recent research has highlighted how being on social media too much late at night can have this exact effect.

If you read those stories, don’t read work emails

They are called work emails for a reason. We live in a world where people expect quicker replies and instant communication. Over 50% of people check their work emails after they have left work; however, working from home should not be extended to working late at night in bed. Read the emails the next day – you will be in a better frame of mind to process them.

If you read work emails, don’t reply to them

An instant reply may not be your best reply. Replying to work emails all the time has recently been associated with an increase in stress and reduced immunity. By not replying straight away to an email, you have the advantage of sleeping on it, ensuring you are thinking clearly (and not too emotionally) when you do.

Far better to reply first thing in the morning, than last thing at night. Also by replying instantly, you can set a dangerous precedent: that people can (and quickly this turns into should) be in contact all the time and expect an immediate reply.

Don’t let your students’ phone get in the way of their learning and well-being – help them develop key phone management skills.

Final thoughts

Your phone may not be the only thing affecting your sleep. Head over to our handy guide to the hidden benefits of sleep for more tips and research. And for tips and resources to manage your phone better, check out our guide to mobile phone management for students.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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