One of the most common discussions we have with students when we visit schools to deliver our workshops is about how much sleep they get - or, rather, how little sleep they get. This is bad news. Not getting enough sleep hinders their ability to learn and increases their stress levels. The conversation almost always ends up with the same conclusion: the vast majority of them use their phones late into the night.
Research by Ofcom found that 81% of people never turn their phone off, even at night when they’re in bed. Evidence also suggests that people check their phones over 80 times a day, but are also poor predictor of their own phone use: most check their phone twice as much as they think they do.
Why is that such a bad thing? Well, in a previous blog, we explored the research around the negative impact of excessive phone use, and found that it could result in:
- Reduced concentration
- Increase in FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
- Reduced memory
- A warped view of reality
- Increased stress and anxiety
- Reduced sleep
In this blog we’d like to focus on that last point. Sleep is vital for students and their success at school. It is linked to how much they learn, how calm they feel and how well they can concentrate.
In an ideal world, students would develop the self-control to stay off their phone when about to go to sleep or, even better, not have their phone in their bedroom at all. However, we have to be realistic and accept that many will refuse to be separated from their phone, with 60% of students reporting feeling very agitated when they cannot access their mobile phone. So, here’s our advice to them…
Leave your phone out of your bedroom
Recent research found that being on your phone within an hour of going to bed makes you three times as likely to get less than five hours of sleep. As a comparison, the recommended amount of sleep for teenagers is 8-10 hours.
The objection to this that we hear the most often is that people use their phone as an alarm clock to wake up in the morning. However, the solution to this is very simple: buy an alarm clock.
If you have your phone in your room, don’t use it in bed
Reading your phone in bed is not a good look, and the key to a good sleep rhythm is a consistent bedtime routine that gives you the best chance to fall asleep. If reading before bed helps you unwind, go for a book or a magazine. This will help you have a less disturbed and higher quality sleep.
If you use your phone in bed, turn down the backlight
A bright backlight will trick your brain into thinking it’s still daytime and stop the release of melatonin. This is the hormone responsible for making you sleepy, and is usually released around 9pm. Although ideally you wouldn’t use your phone in the lead up to bedtime at all, people who turn down the backlight on their phone and hold it more than 12 inches from their face consistently get a better night’s sleep.
Another solution is to use a blue light filter. Many phones now have it as a built-in feature you can access through your settings, but if this isn’t the case for you, many apps exist to help.
If you turn down your phone’s backlight, set yourself a time limit
It’s good to give yourself a deadline. Most apps and websites are designed to be addictive and make time fly. Next thing you know, it’s 1.30am, you’re on your third consecutive hour of TikTok videos and your night is ruined.
If you set a time limit, don’t go on social media
One of the most important things to help you fall asleep is to get to a calm and relaxed state. Not only will social media make time fly away, it’s full of content that will stress you out or make you feel bad about yourself.
People get to choose to show the best, idealised side of themselves on social media. This can give you unrealistic expectations and make you feel like you’re not doing enough.
If you go on social media, don’t read stressful stuff
Social media platforms are constantly full of bad news or upsetting content. Looking at these will trigger a release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which will make you feel stressed, alert - and awake. Feeling on edge is not conducive to falling asleep. Recent research highlighted how being on social media too much at night can have this exact effect.
If you read stressful stuff, don’t engage with it
Just don’t. It’s never worth it.
You can find all our tips and resources on mobile phone management for students on our guide page. Here are some of our favourite blogs on the subject, too:
- 5 ways to manage your phone better
- Teenagers, stress and social media
- What we know about teenagers and screen time
- The impact of mobile phones on grades
- 5 ways students can better manage gaming time