It should be pretty obvious that staring at your phone the whole night through is a bad idea.

Lying in bed at night is prime time for plenty of things, but checking Insta and Facebook when you're in your pit is probably something that can wait - these are apps designed to be as engaging and difficult to leave as possible, so don't expect a short visit.

The biggest issue, however, isn't your own willingness to keep using your phone, but your brain's unconscious reaction to the light in your device.

The blue light that allows you to see your phone easily in sunshine is understandably very bright - it's designed so as to be brighter than sunlight, of course - and is largely responsible for disrupting the rhythm of your sleep by replicating the light of day in the middle of the night.

The biology of it isn't complicated. Our bodies are conditioned to sleep in the night time and be awake during the day time - simple, right? - but also to recognise the appropriate time to kip and the appropriate time to wake up.

One of the ways in which our bodies can tell the time is via their production of melatonin, a hormone that helps us sleep at night and is triggered by the morning sun to tell our bodies that it's time to get up and face the day.

Smartphone texting

Credit: PA

When we use blue light devices, the melatonin in the morning sun is replicated and thus our sleep cycle is disrupted - a kind of induced jet lag in which our body clock receives mixed signals. So when you check Facebook before you sleep, or get up to answer a Whatsapp message, you're telling your brain that it's time to get up and disrupting your own natural sleep cycle.

It's pretty obvious that getting a good night's sleep is important - quiet at the back, gamers - but let's quickly run down some of the associated health risks that come from poor rest.

In the short term, you're far more at risk of suffering from memory loss and depression, because you're more tired and can't concentrate. Meanwhile, in the long run, prolonged poor sleep is connected with prostate and breast cancer.

Not to mention that your body clock regulates when to eat as well as when to sleep, so if your body doesn't know when it should rest, it also tends not to know how much it should be eating, as anyone who has had jet lag will attest to. Obesity levels are intricately linked with poor sleep.

So the message should be clear - check your phone when you're in bed at your own risk. Though if you can't get your eight hours' shut-eye without scrolling through Twitter, you probably have plenty of problems to be getting on with anyway...

Words: Mike Meehall Wood

Featured Image Credit: Flickr/m01229 (Creative Commons)

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