Over 77% of Americans are losing sleep over the pandemic, a study of over 1,000 individuals between 18 and 65 years old reports. The isolation, disruptions to our daily routine, and increase in feelings of anxiety (which can lead to acute insomnia) are all part of the problem. But our phone use — especially when close to bedtime — is also partly to blame.
Think about it: Our phones are repositories for all sorts of things that can stress us out, like coronavirus-related news alerts. There’s also the problem of blue light, which is the intense wavelength of light our screens are known for. Blue light can act as a stimulant, suppressing production of the natural sleep hormone melatonin and making it hard to doze off. In fact, one study found that exposure to blue light before bed reduces the duration of sleep by approximately 16 minutes, and disrupts the continuity of sleep as the night ticks on.
“Our phones are our connection to the world, so it’s difficult to part from them — but keeping a physical distance from them can help us sleep more soundly,” Elizabeth Dowdell, Ph.D., R.N., and a professor of nursing at Villanova University, tells Thrive. “In an ideal world, we would all be sleeping with our phones in a different room entirely.”
As Dowdell notes, the healthiest way to deal with our devices at night is to keep them outside of our bedrooms — but if that seems too daunting, there are other solutions. To improve your sleep quality during this challenging time, set boundaries with your devices by practicing these Microsteps:
Choose a time each night to put your phone in Do Not Disturb mode. Blocking news and social media notifications will set you up for the sleep your immune system needs.
Set a news cut-off time at the end of the day. While being informed can help you feel more prepared amid a public health crisis, setting healthy limits to your media consumption can help you have a restorative night’s sleep and put the stressful news into perspective.
Before you get into bed, escort your devices out of your bedroom. Your phone is a repository of your anxieties and fears, especially in times of crisis and constant news updates. Disconnecting will help you sleep better, recharge, and reconnect to your most resilient self.
Write down a list of what you’re grateful for before bed. Writing down what you’re grateful for at the end of the day will lower your stress levels, take your mind off the news of the day, and give you a greater sense of calm at night.