Vamping: How are smartphones affecting our sleep?

Have you ever heard of vamping? No? You may be surprised to read that many of us are guilty of vamping on a regular basis. What could be even more surprising is that 80% of teens have admitted to vamping!

‘Vamping’ is the act of staying up late at night to use electronics; a familiar concept to many of us who own smartphones.

Vamping on Smartphones

With 83% of mobile users now using smartphones, and a world that’s constantly adapting to keep up with online demand, almost everything is readily available at our fingertips. Clothes shopping, food delivery, news, video games, health and fitness, TV and movies, audio, literature, sports and so, so much more!

With how much these handy little devices have to offer these days, most of us spend very little time away from our phones - bedtime included.

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Almost 65% of 18 - 44 year olds admitted to keeping their phones within reach when they go to sleep. With phones buzzing, beeping and lighting up dark rooms, at every minor notification, this probably isn’t an ideal place to keep them at night. When you’re trying to sleep and feel your phone vibrating beside your head, it’s unlikely you’ll be getting a good night’s sleep.

Sure you can ignore it, keep your eyes closed and try to drift off. But then you start to think about it - what was that buzz for? Probably nothing important. But what if it is? It could be an important message - maybe that email you were waiting for? Or a friend urgently needing you? You’d better check, right?

Alas, it’s just a notification from that old mobile game reminding that ‘you haven’t played in a while. Here’s a free life.’ Just checking your phone this one time can often be enough to distract you from your mission to sleep, which can lead to restlessness.

How a lack of sleep affects us

Many people admit to using their phone to try and wind down, scrolling through social media feeds or reading articles until they feel more tired. But, of course, staring at a screen is completely counterintuitive to settling down to sleep. Suddenly, you find that it’s the early hours of the morning and your much needed sleep time has been heavily reduced.

Sure, the occasional late night online won’t harm us too much, other than a few yawns the next day, but the effects can become more serious over time.

According to the NHS:

After several sleepless nights, your brain will fog, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. You’ll start to feel down, and may fall asleep during the day. Your risk of injury and accidents at home, work and on the road also increases.

As adults this is bad enough. For our younger generation, the impacts of little sleep can be harder to deal with.

So the lack of sleep will have you feeling rough the next day, but maybe you only stay up scrolling through your phone because you’re not tired anyway - maybe you were ready to put your phone down and go to sleep, but couldn’t sleep so picked it up again? Well, the light from your phone screen could actually be hugely affecting your ability to get to sleep.

Phone lights can keep us awake

Any light during the night, however dim, can interfere with a person’s natural circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion, making it very difficult to sleep. This has even been linked to all kinds of health problems - both mental and physical.

While this is true for all kinds of light, blue light is much more powerful and can really cause some trouble at night.

Blue light is the common name for the particular wavelengths of light that we see as blue. These wavelengths are known to boost attention, reaction time and mood and are therefore pretty useful during the daytime.

After sundown, however, this blue light becomes disruptive to our sleep patterns. Blue light has been found to shift circadian rhythms by twice as much as green light. Phones, tablets and laptops are all guilty of exposing us to large amounts of blue light, so using these excessively once it’s dark outside can become harmful to our sleeping habits.

But what can we do to combat the urge to stare at our phones all night?

Here are a few tips:

  • Reduce phone time before bed: Give yourself some no-phone time before bed to relax your mind and get you ready to sleep! Try listening to some music, having a bath, reading a new book or whatever it is you might do to wind down and get yourself mentally ready to switch off.

  • Combat your blue light exposure: Many devices now offer blue light filter settings, which adjust the colours of your display to the warmer end of the spectrum and decrease the amount of blue light they produce. For example, Apple’s ‘Nightshift’ mode enables you to schedule specific times for the blue light filter to turn on/off or you can even set it to automatically be put to use when the sun goes down - when blue light is at its most harmful.

  • Use dim red lights for night lights: Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin.

  • Avoid looking at any bright screens before bed: It’s not just smartphones that produce a bright screen. Watching TV, playing video games or sitting at a computer / on a laptop can also impact your natural sleep patterns. As above, try doing something else to relax for an hour or two before bed..

  • Try out blue-blocking glasses: If you work a night shift or use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses or installing an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night.

  • Expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day: This will boost your ability to sleep at night, as well as your mood and alertness during daylight.

So, there we have it! Using your smartphone, and other electronic devices just before bed can have negative impacts to the quality of your sleep. This is especially true for teens and kids even younger - so we must, of course, ensure that we are educating them properly.

After all…

There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.
— Homer, The Odyssey

Are you guilty of vamping? Do you have any other tips for a restful night? Be sure to leave a comment and let us know!