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Why You Shouldn’t Use Your Phone in Bed

A young man using his phone in bed
Pinone Pantone/Shutterstock.com
Using your phone in bed can lead to negative outcomes like sleep deprivation, body pain, eye strain, and decreased work performance.

Scrolling away the hours while relaxing in bed is a habit many fall into. But it can lead to nasty consequences like sleep disruption, neck pain, and eye strain. Here are the top reasons to shut down your phone at bedtime. Plus, some tips to mitigate the damage if you just can’t stop.

Blue Light Can Disrupt Your Circadian Rhythm

A young woman shining blue light on her face with a smartphone in bed

One of the primary reasons to stop using your phone in bed is because the blue light it eliminates can make it harder for you to fall asleep. Blue light features a short wavelength and high energy, which tells your body it’s time to be awake and alert. Exposing yourself to this type of light and the evening and nighttime hours can disrupt your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s internal 24-hour clock that regulates various physiological processes such as sleep and wakefulness. It also suppresses melatonin, one of the hormones playing a crucial role in regulating your sleep-wake cycle.

Using your phone in bed, especially in a dark room, can confuse your body to being ready for the day when it should be winding down and getting ready to sleep. Potentially leading to difficulty falling asleep, getting enough restful sleep, and leaving you feeling groggy, fatigued, and less focused during the day. Prolonged sleep deprivation may also lead to more severe consequences and have a negative impact on your overall health.

However, putting your phone away is only one step to avoiding the disruption blue light can cause to your sleep. In addition to ditching your phone at bedtime, consider implementing a “digital curfew” where you shut down all your screens and establish a nightly wind-down routine to help your body maintain its natural cycles. Wind-down activities could include reading a book, practicing mindfulness, or engaging in light stretching exercises.

Phone Use in Bed Can Lead to Neck Pain

Man holding sore neck while using notebook computer.
Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock.com

While using the phone in bed, many people often hold their phones close to their faces or lay on their sides with their shoulders hunched over the phone. The problem is that our bodies aren’t meant to maintain those awkward positions for very long. Spending hours in these less-than-ergonomic poses can lead to strain on your body, particularly your neck.

Additionally, prolonged periods of bending your neck forward to view your phone screen can also create stress on your cervical spine, leading to a condition commonly known as “text neck.” This ailment is characterized by persistent neck pain, stiffness, and discomfort. The longer you continue to engage in poor posture, the higher the risk of developing this chronic condition.

Be mindful of your body positioning to mitigate some of these adverse effects while using the phone in bed. Try using a supportive pillow that provides proper alignment of the head, neck, and spine. If you lay on your side, consider putting a pillow between your legs to maintain neutral spine alignment. And if you can’t put your phone away when you crawl into bed, make sure to take regular breaks from your phone and incorporate some simple stretching exercises for your neck to relieve the tension you’re putting on your muscles.

Staring at Your Screen Too Long Strains Your Eyes

Young anxious woman lying in bed staring at smartphone screen

When you use a phone for a prolonged period, your eyes have to work harder than usual to adjust to the contrast between the bright screen and the surrounding environment. The increased effort puts significant strain on the muscles responsible for focusing and controlling the size of your pupils.

One common problem caused by the extended use of phones in bed is eye fatigue. Continuous focus on a small screen at close proximity can lead to what’s known as “digital eye strain,” aka “computer vision syndrome.” This phenomenon can include eye-related symptoms, including dryness, itching, burning, redness, and general discomfort.

To minimize the strain on your eyes caused by using your phone in bed, consider keeping your lights on to minimize the adjusting your eyes have to do. You should also implement the “20-20-20 rule.” It’s simple to remember. Every 20 minutes or so, glance away from your phone and focus object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will help relax the focusing muscles in your eyes and reduce fatigue.

Staying Up All Night Scrolling Ruins Your Day

Sleepy student with tousled hair trying to read on line content in a laptop
Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock.com

All of the issues we’ve touched on so far are only big problems in the long run. You can shake off a night or two of scrolling away in bed. But one thing you can’t escape is feeling run down in the morning because you didn’t get enough sleep on account of being awake until the early morning hours scrolling social media.

A good night’s sleep is our body’s primary way to rest, repair, and recharge. Missing just a single night’s rest can cause you to feel groggy and fatigued in the morning and throughout the day. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to more serious symptoms such as long-term irritability, anxiety, and even depression. Additionally, your performance at work and school could decline if you fail to get adequate rest.

Establishing healthy sleep habits and setting boundaries around bedtime preclude the possibility that you’ll get sucked into a mobile game after midnight. The aforementioned “digital curfew” could come in handy here. Try giving yourself at least an hour before bed with no devices turned in your vicinity to allow your body and mind to reconnect with the physical world immediately around you as they prepare to end the day.

Final Thoughts: Turn Your Phone Off Before You Get Into Bed

If using your phone in bed is your worst habit, you’re probably doing alright in life. But even the seemingly benign act of tapping on your iPhone in bed while you wind down can have some pretty dramatic consequences long term. The good news is that the solution is really simple: just turn off your phone. The bad news is that it isn’t always easy. If you find you just can’t stop using your phone in bed, at least consider doing some of the simple things listed above to help minimize the potential damage.

Danny Chadwick Danny Chadwick
Danny has been a technology journalist since 2008. He served as senior writer, as well as multimedia and home improvement editor at Top Ten Reviews until 2019. Since then, he has been a freelance contributor to Lifewire and ghostwriter for Fit Small Business. His work has also appeared on Laptop Mag, Tom’s Guide, and business.com. Read Full Bio »