Explained: Here’s how using your smartphone in bed prevents sleep, and how you can avoid it

4 min read

How long does it take you to fall asleep at night? Normally it should take about 20 minutes to fall asleep once you’ve laid down for the night, but there’s one factor that changes that for many of us, our phones.

Go ahead, admit it, you probably use your phone in bed before going to sleep pretty often. Checking social media or watching a video before bed is pretty tempting, but doing so may be robbing you of a good night’s sleep. Why? The short answer is that you’re staring at light, and that tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. Let’s take a closer look.

Blue Light Is What’s Keeping You Up

Experts are united in the fact that using your phone at night isn’t healthy. The extra exposure to light late at night can cause you to lose sleep or even cause sleep disorders. It’s not just the endless stream of posts that is causing you to stay awake, it’s the light from your phone. More specifically, it’s the blue light.

Short wavelength blue light is generated by various displays including smartphones, tablets, and computers/TVs. That same light is also generated by the sun during the day and actually helps keep us awake and alert, the opposite of what we want when trying to go to sleep. That’s why using displays in bed keeps you up, it makes your brain think that it’s still daytime and suppresses the hormones your body produces at night to help you fall asleep.

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But, I Still Want To Use My Phone In Bed…

So yes, using your phone at night is bad for you. However, that’s not going to stop everyone. Luckily, there’s a solution of sorts. By filtering out the blue light coming from your display, you can effectively cancel out its negative effects and use your device in bed without affecting your sleep.

These filters come in a number of forms, but they all work in pretty much the same way. By overlaying a red hue on your display, these overlays keep blue light to a minimum. By doing that, these filters reduce eye strain and don’t trick your brain. Of course, you will have to get used to the red/orange tint on your display…

How To Use “Blue Light Filters”

There are various options available to do this, but the best option depends on the device you’re using.

  • iPhone/iPad

In iOS 9.3, Apple added “Night Shift” to the platform for all compatible devices. Just like I explained, this overlays a red hue on the display and eliminates¬†blue light. To access the feature, go to your device’s settings, tap “Display & Brightness,” select “Night Shift,” and set up your schedule. This will activate Night Shift automatically when the sun has set, or based on a custom time. You can also manually activate the feature until the following morning.

  • Google Pixel

On Google’s new Pixel smartphones, “Night Light” has been added as a native blue light filter. To access it, go to settings, display, and Night Light. From here you can set a custom schedule or toggle the feature on/off. Alternatively, there’s also a quick setting available.

  • Galaxy S7

On the Galaxy S7 family, and the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7, there’s a blue light filter which is simply named “Blue Light Filter.” You can also access the feature through the settings app in the display section, or through the quick settings menu.

  • Other Android Devices

Unfortunately, not everyone has built blue light filters into their devices. Luckily, there are plenty of third-party apps to choose from. My personal favorite is Twilight. The app is highly customizable, easy to use, and works on anything that runs Android, including Android TV. To get the full feature set you will need to fork over $2.99, but the free version should be fine for most users.

  • Windows/Mac/Linux

Last but not least, there’s the computer. If you’re using a computer with any OS, there’s no better option that f.lux. The program is free to download and works insanely well. Everything is done automatically and you can adjust the settings however you like. It’s available on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux for free. The download is available here.