Do you take your phone to bed with you? Do you surf the web before you fall asleep? Do you use your phone to check the time if you wake in the night? Do you have a quick scroll through Facebook before you get up in the morning? Before last week, I could answer yes to all of above.
“Where’s the harm?”, you might wonder. Well, recent studies have shown that being surrounded by technology, especially at the time when your body and mind are getting ready to sleep, can have a detrimental impact on the quality of your sleep and, as a result, your health. Sleep disorders have increased by 20% in the last five years and sleep problems are costing the NHS an estimated £38 million in sleeping tablets annually, plus treatment for a host of other chronic lack-of-sleep related health side effects, which can include:
- Weakened immune system
- Increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes
- Susceptibility to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression
- Impaired fertility in both men and women
Bed manufacturer Silentnight looked into into how tech might be contributing to these issues among Brits, and found that 81% of smartphone users have their smartphones switched on all of the time, even in bed, with four in ten adults and teenagers a similar proportion of teenagers using their smartphone after it woke them.
Browsing the internet and social media before you go to bed overloads the ‘working memory’ of the brain, leading to noisy, thought-filled sleep. Silentnight’s resident sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, advises turning off all tech at least 60-90 minutes before going to sleep in order to give the mind time to wind down.
Dr Nerina adds: “It is crucial that people recognise importance of a good night’s sleep. The health risks associated with chronic sleep dept can cause a variety of problems, leading to further illness and potential lifelong issues. Your bedroom is one of the most important factors when it comes to getting a great night’s sleep. Banishing technology from the bedroom is one of the easiest things people can do to promote a relaxing sleep environment and ensure they’re getting enough rest for the body to recover over night.”
I know it isn’t a good idea to take tech to bed. I wouldn’t dream of letting the kids take their LeapPads to bed with them, but when Silentnight told me to banish my phone from the bedroom, I knew it was going to be difficult. The thing is, I lurk on social media like most people read a good book. It’s part of my winding down process, but I could see it was probably causing more harm than good, so out it went, being replaced instead with a non-ticking alarm clock, which is no good for 3am Facebook browsing ;)
Silentnight also sent me:
- Healthy snacks – nuts and seeds can help keep the hormones needed for good sleep (melatonin and seratonin) balanced
- Camomile tea – switching to herbal tea can help minimise caffeine and increase fluid intake, both of which should help improve sleep
- Dr Nerina’s book – this one is packed with sleep tips (several of which are summarised here), but not one to take to bed with you as Dr Nerina advises fiction as the best way to relax at bedtime
- Bath goodies – having a bath and using some relaxing essential oils such as lavender can help promote sleepiness
- Tech-free door sign – to remind me no to absent mindedly go back to old habits
So for a few days, I led reduced-caffeine, healthy snack filled days, and then switched off my phone and computer at 8pm and relaxed for a couple of hours before heading to bed at 11pm.
Has it helped? Yes, I have to admit it has. I would estimate that the time between my climbing into bed and actually falling asleep averages at around 1 hour, but without my iPhone or laptop to glance at then, unsurprisingly, that average fell to 15-20 minutes. It’s hard to say if the quality of my sleep has improved as our recent bedroom renovation and new mattress had already improved things in that regard, but I did feel fresher in the morning, probably because I was being strict about bedtime and getting closer to 8 hours instead of my usual 5-6.
So will I be giving up tech at night from now on? Well, you guessed it, I’m going to harp on about moderation once again! The thing is, there are evenings when I really enjoy catching up with friends on social media, so I’m not going to cut out the tech every evening, but I am going to stop putting my phone on the bedside table right next to me, and instead put it in the bedside drawer as soon as I get into bed. I’m then going to do my best to leave it there until morning, because I recognise the benefits that can have.
Right then. Over to you. Are you up for the challenge? Will you banish the tech from your bedroom tonight? If you do, please come back tomorrow and let me know how you got on. Good luck!
This is a commissioned post for Silentnight.