It’s a rare person who doesn’t have a smartphone these days. They are insanely popular, and we totally get it. Smartphones put news, games, books, videos, music, banking, social media, and more right in the palm of your hand. There is always something to do with it, and you never need wonder about any question – simply Google it.
But (you knew there would be a but), there are some negative health consequences of smartphone use that we can’t just ignore. Because they are carted everywhere and touched all the time, even in the bathroom, they are incredibly germy yet rarely cleaned. Excessive use has also been shown to cause repetitive stress injuries in fingers and wrists.
That’s just the start – turns out, a lot more bad stuff could happen if you get so attached to your phone that you keep it beside you at all times, even overnight. Keep reading to find out what happens when you can’t put it away.
You could set your pillow on fire
Under the pillow is a convenient place that many people stash their phones overnight, but this is a fire risk. All phones produce some amount of heat when they work, and you’ll probably be able to tell when you’ve been on yours too long because it becomes too hot to touch. Putting it under your pillow makes it hard for that heat to dissipate, and in extreme cases it can cause fire.
Certain phones have a greater reputation for catching fire than others – notably the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. The manufacturer has since fixed that glitch. But any phone can produce excess heat, especially when you use generic accessories (batteries and chargers) rather than brand-name ones from the manufacturer. Bottom line: charge that phone in another room overnight.
You’ll have trouble falling asleep
The light emitted by cell phones, tablets, TVs, and any gadget with an LED screen is called “blue light.” The wavelength of blue light is similar to that of daylight and sends our bodies the message that it’s time to be awake. The natural inclination of humans to be awake when it’s light and asleep when it’s dark is called a circadian rhythm, and screen time interrupts it.
Production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin tends to be restricted when you use your phone in bed at night. Sure, you’ll eventually succumb to exhaustion and fall asleep with the thing in your hand, but chances are it will be much later than it should be. Put the phone down at least an hour before your intended bedtime in order to get enough quality sleep.
You could risk your health
Research on the possible link between cell phones and cancer is still in its infancy with no clear link yet drawn. But, cell phones do give off some electromagnetic radiation, the same kind that’s in x-rays and microwaves and can cause tumors in high amounts.
Though the levels emitted by phones are low, the World Health Organization cautions that extended exposure could be dangerous, especially in children.
Therefore, it’s a safer call to store your phone away from your body whenever you’re not actively using it. Some people try to limit the amount of time the phone spends pressed to their heads by using an earpiece or texting more than calling. It only stands to reason that having the phone next to your head all night unnecessarily increases your exposure to radiation.
You won’t be as happy as you could be
We know what you’re thinking – “My phone makes me happy!” But humans didn’t evolve to get pleasure from a machine. It is our interpersonal relationships that provide true fulfillment. A recent study aimed to demonstrate that life is better without screens at night. In it, a group of 49 participants were asked to keep their phones out of their bedrooms for a week.
Even in that short time, participants were happier and had a better quality of life. They reported that they got better quality sleep, felt less anxiety, and improved their relationships. A full 93.6% of them said they planned to keep it up. Even if you don’t sleep next to a partner, constantly comparing your life to others’ at night via social media can impact your satisfactions with relationships you have during the day.
Your priorities get out of whack
It’s better for your relationships and your wellbeing to do something other than play on your phone before bed. But when you leave it right next to you all night, you are likely to grab it every time it makes a sound. Every news story, text, or social media alert will have you distracted from what you’re doing, whether that is talking with your spouse, reading with your kids, or simply taking some time to quietly meditate.
Don’t send the message to your loved ones that the phone means more to you than they do. Get your priorities back in line by giving your full attention to human connection or to simply being in the moment. We promise you won’t lie on your deathbed wishing you had bonded less with your loved ones or understood less about yourself.
Is sleeping with a phone at your bedside the end of the world? Nah. But life could be so much better if you put it aside for 10 hours or so at night. With more meaningful winding-down time and deeper, more restorative sleep, it is incredible how much happier you can feel.
Don’t get obsessed with your friends who are out partying, don’t lose vital sleep by playing 20 last rounds of Candy Crush, and for heaven’s sake, don’t expose your body to more radiation than you need to. Phone-free is the way to go at night.