We all need sleep. Not only does it affect your overall physical health, but also benefits your mental health and mood. The amount of sleep you get can make or break your day. But how many of us actually get enough of it? One of the biggest factors leading to a lack of sleep is phones.
During sleep, our bodies go through many processes in order to keep us healthy. According to healthline.com, “The brain stores new information and gets rid of toxic waste, nerve cells communicate and reorganize which supports healthy brain function, and the body repairs cells, restores energy, and releases molecules like hormones and proteins.”
Sleep affects our metabolism, weight maintenance, immune system, brain function, heart health, emotional health, cellular restoration, insulin function, and so much more. Without the proper amount of rest, these important functions could be affected.
Different age groups require different amounts of shuteye. The CDC recommends that children ages 6-12 get 9 to 12 hours per day, teens 13-18 get 8 to 10 hours, and adults get 7 or more hours of sleep.
However, many people, especially teenagers, don’t get an adequate amount of sleep. According to an article from pbs.org, “the number of U.S. teens who reported sleeping less than seven hours a night jumped 22 percent between 2012 and 2015 [and] there was one large change in teens’ lives between 2012 and 2015: More owned smartphones.”
Since then, screen time has skyrocketed. According to an article published in 2021 from ucsf.edu, “UC San Francisco-led researchers found that 12- to 13-year-old children in the United States doubled their non-school-related screen time to 7.7 hours a day in May 2020, compared to 3.8 hours a day before the pandemic.”
So how does this increase in phone usage play into teens' sleep deprivation?
Smartphones emit a specific kind of light called blue light. When it is dark, our brains start to release melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy. But with the presence of this blue light blaring from the phone, melatonin production is slowed, and other hormones such as cortisol are released to keep you awake and energized. Essentially, your brain is tricked into thinking it’s daytime, making it hard to fall asleep.
Since teens spend much of their lives on these cellular devices, especially in the last three years, they aren’t producing as much melatonin, causing restlessness leading to sleep deprivation.
In addition to smartphones, teens already have a harder time falling asleep. According to an article from CNN.com, “When kids become teenagers, melatonin begins to be released later than it used to. That means teens are not ready to fall asleep until 11 p.m. Because the same melatonin does not recede until later, teens end up wanting to sleep in more than they used to.”
The combination of being a teenager and the effects of smartphones mean it is especially difficult for high school students to get sleep. Keeping your screen time low is at least something we have control over to get the best sleep possible.
One way to ensure you avoid being on your phone at night is by putting it in a completely different room. One might have the urge to check social media, answer a friend’s text, or look up random facts late at night when their phone is in sight and within reach. Next thing you know, it’s 3 am and you are still scrolling through Tik Tok, leaving you exhausted and grumpy in the morning.
You can also switch the phone to “dark mode” to reduce the light being produced to make it a little easier on the eyes and brain if you must have the phone with you.
Besides reducing screen time, some additional tips for healthy sleep habits are getting exercise throughout the day, eating healthy and avoiding large meals before bed, and keeping your bedroom dark and at a comfortable temperature.
Everyone needs sleep, especially teenagers who are constantly growing. If you find yourself constantly sleep deprived and phone addicted, try using some of these tips to help you get the rest your mind and body deserve!