photo showing cell phone light waking up someone at night

How to keep cell phone light from waking you up at night – 10 Practical remedies worth a try

By Jason Wooden, PhD | May 5, 2022

If cell phone light is waking you up at night, you’re not the only since as many as 41 percent of survey respondents report being awakened.  Bright light from a screen signals the brain it’s time to wake up.

For better nights, your options include night or sleep mode, keeping your phone face down or in a drawer, checking for damage or software issues, using an alarm clock, and various other remedies.

What’s more annoying than cell phone light waking you up at night?

We’ve all been there…

Your bedroom is comfortably dark and you’re drifting off to sleep only to be startled awake by flashes of light from your cell phone screen.

You pick up the phone and find it’s just a late night text message from a group thread.

Somehow you mange to fall back asleep and it happens again.  Now, you’re wide awake and pretty annoyed.

Sounds familiar?

There are few things more annoying than having your sleep interrupted.

With almost 4 billion smart phones in use around the world, you’re likely not the only one to have their sleep interrupted because of a cell phone.

Unfortunately, modern smart phone screens can light up for all sorts of reasons without you touching them – incoming calls, text messages, software updates, and notifications from all those apps.

Regardless of why your phone is lighting up, it’s all the same to your sleep if cell phone light keeps waking you up at night – frustrating nights, mornings that come all too soon, and stumbling through the day sleep-deprived.

Every night one in three people struggle with poor sleep and cell phones are becoming a big part of the problem.

Would you believe nearly three quarters of Americans sleep with their smart phones in the bedroom?  (Okay, maybe that’s not so surprising.)

Nonetheless, a study in Finland found that 41 percent of respondents had been awaken by cell phone light.

That’s a whole lot of people and it’s likely more than a few have struggled with cell phone light waking them up at night.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans who own smartphones sleep with them

Source: Bank of American mobile consumer report

Why cell phone light can hurt your sleep even if it doesn’t wake you up…

It’s obvious how light flashes from a cell phone can wake you up at night.  We’re supposed to be in tune with our environment.

However, there’s more going on than you may realize.

When it comes to your sleep environment, the basic rule is to keep your bedroom DARK, QUIET, and a bit on the COOL side.  Intruding light from a cell phone breaks this rule even if it’s only occasional.

Our brains and body are wired to be in tune with day and night.  Bright light signals your brain it’s time to wake up.

The way it works is that wired so that sunlight signals your body through your eyes to stop making the “feel sleepy” hormone melatonin.  Because of this, melatonin naturally falls during the day and creeps up as it gets dark.

Studies have found that bright blue wavelength light from an artificial source such as a phone screen mimics natural daylight and can have the same effect on your brain.

So, bright light from your cell phone can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Every time your phone flashes during the night, it can ping you awake!

In fact, even small amounts of ambient light may affect your natural sleep-wake cycle and affect sleep quality.

And that’s why cell phone light is so damaging to sleep even if it doesn’t wake you up

Unfortunately, that’s not the only way cell phones can wreck your sleep.

We’re going to talk about them next.

Studies have found that keeping a cell phone near the pillow can negatively impact sleep.

Cell phone light waking you up at night isn’t the only risk for your sleep

Okay, now that you what could be happening to you because of the light from your phone screen, you really should know about the other ways modern smartphones are wrecking people’s sleep.

The noise is just as bad

Keep in mind basic rule for you for your bedroom to be DARK, QUIET, and on the COOL side.

With smart phones come all sorts of intruding noise. There’s the ringer going off, text message alerts, social media alerts, and system notifications.

It’s obvious how intruding noise can keep you from falling asleep.  It can also cause problems in some surprising ways once you’re asleep.

That’s because intruding sounds can arouse you out of deep sleep into a lighter sleep.

And since deep restful sleep is what the body really needs to heal and replenish itself, you won’t wake up feeling refreshed.

It’s too tempting to use before going to bed

There’s nothing like social media to get a person wired up.  YouTube is just as bad as with all the endless rabbit holes.

That’s part of the reason smart phones are so addictive.

It’s also believed that every YouTube thumbnail and video you click gives your brain a dopamine hit which rewards the behavior.  It feels good so you do it again.

So, if you’re using it as a way to pass the time, you could be playing with dynamite.

It’s too easy to get into the habit of waking up to check your phone

Are you a compulsive phone checker? 

You know, one of those people who have to check their phone pretty frequently…

Did you know that the average smart phone user checks their phone every 12 minutes while wake?

And one in three people check their phones in the middle of the night?

If you’re not careful, you may actually program your body to wake up in the middle of the night for a smart phone hit.

 photo of man who woke up during the night checking smart phone

It’s bad for anyone else sleeping in the room

It’s not just your sleep and wellness that’s at risk.  Whether it’s a spouse, partner, bedmate, or roommate, intruding light and noise from your phone can ruin their sleep too.

 cartoon of man annoyed because spouse’s cell phone light is waking him up at night

10 Things to try to keep a cell phone light from waking you up at night

Now that you know about the harmful effects of cell phones, let’s take a look at what you can do about it.

Obviously, the simplest way to keep cell phone light from waking you up at night is to keep it out of the bedroom.

No phone, no intruding light.

However, you may have a reason or two for keeping it nearby.  It could be safety, convenience, you’re on call for work, or you’re just using it as an alarm clock.

 

The good news is there are plenty of practical remedies that can help improve your sleep, depending on your situation:

photo showing person adjusting the brightness which can help if cell phone light is waking you up at night

1) Turn your screen brightness down

Yeah, pretty obvious. Had to have it on the list…

photo of person turning their cell phone off

2) Turn your phone off

Another obvious solution…

photo of cell phone face down to keep cell phone light from waking you up at night

3) Keep your phone face down

Easy enough to do…a time tested and simple way to protect from unwanted screen light during the night.

photo of night stand by bed

4) Place it in a drawer

If you find there’s still too much light leakage, keeping it a bedstand drawer still offers convenient access, especially if you’re using it as an alarm.

photo of bathroom counter

5) Keep it in the bathroom

It’s out of the bedroom but nearby which may be more workable if you’re worried about missing something important.  At least, you’ll have less nuisance light in the bedroom.

photo of phone switched to dark mode to keep cell phone light from waking you up at night

6) Turn on Dark Mode

Switching your phone into this mode will change the background color from light to dark.  Designed to reduce eye strain and save battery life, a black background will also pump out less ambient light from your phone screen.

More:
Dark mode for Android (Dark Theme)
Dark mode for iPhone

illustration of night mode to keep cell phone light from waking you up at night

7) Switch your phone to Night Mode

This feature will adjust the screen display to replace the bright blue wavelength light with warmer colors.

More:
Night Mode Android
Night mode for iPhone, iPad, and iPod (Night Shift)

cartoon showing phone switched to do not disturb mode to keep cell phone light from waking you up at night

8) Switch your phone to Do Not Disturb or Sleep Mode

The Do Not Disturb feature mutes call, alerts, and notifications on your phone.  If you’re worried about emergencies or missing something important, you have option of customizing which things you want to go through.

Sleep mode takes things even farther since it will also darken your phone.

How to turn on Do Not Disturb mode:
Android
Apple

How to turn on Sleep Mode:
Android (Bedtime mode)
iPhone

 photo showing alarm clock on bedstand

9) Get an old fashion alarm clock

If the main reason you’re keeping your phone nearby is to wake you up, go out and get an alarm clock.

photo of cell phone with cracked screen

10) Get your phone checked out

If you’ve done everything you can think of and cell phone light is still waking you up at random times during the night, there may be something wrong with your phone.

A flickering or flashing screen can be caused by software issues or problems with your phone settings.  The culprit could also be physical damage from a dropped phone, water, or power charging issues.

You can try restarting your phone, making sure it’s up to date, and taking it in for service.

Other things that will help keep your sleep on track

Cell phone light waking you up at night isn’t the only that could be hurting your sleep. Unfortunately, there’s a long list of things that can wreck your sleep.

Want to become a power sleeper?

Start with practicing good sleep hygiene, the everyday habits that set the stage for restful sleep. 

For better sleep, you should:

  • keep consistent wake up & sleep times
  • avoid naps
  • exercise
  • avoid large meals, alcohol, or stimulants such as caffeine before bedtime
  • maintain a regular bedtime routine
  • avoid using TVs, laptops, or other electronics before sleep
  • keep your bedroom dark, cool, quiet, & relaxing

It’s also important to see a doctor, especially if your insomnia becomes a long-term problem.

Too many people are unaware how many other medical issues can cause problems or worsen sleep.  The list includes things like chronic pain, heartburn, cancer, dementia, and asthma.

You could also be living with an undiagnosed sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.

If you have to use a smart phone, computer, or watch TV near bedtime, blue light blocking sleep aids can help keep your sleep on track.

Sleep hacks to protect from blue light

Sources:

1. “How many smartphones are in the world?”, Bankmycell.com

2. “Talking Points”, World Sleep Society website

3. “Here’s how many Americans sleep with their smartphones”, Fortune.com

4. “Together in Bed? Couples’ Mobile Technology Use in Bed”, 2019, Proceedings of CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems

5. “Here’s how many Americans sleep with their smartphones”, 2015, Fortune

6. Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 2015, volume 112, issue 4, pages 1232 – 1237.

7. Effects of Mobile Use on Subjective Sleep Quality. Nat Sci Sleep. 2020; 12: 357–364.

8. “How YouTube is Addictive — Recommendation Systems & its Impacts”, 2019, Medium.com

9. “100 mind blowing smartphone addiction statistics”, 2021, Diygenius.com

10. Global mobile consumer trends, 2nd edition

Connect with us:

About Us

Better Sleep Simplified SM was founded as a place for you to get clear and well-researched information.

Our goal is to make sure you know about your options so that you take action sooner rather than later.

Read More

Sleep Checklist 

Find out what you're doing right and what to change

Check it out

Sleep Library: 

Watch and Learn

Hear from experts, sleep specialists, people with insomnia, and others

Explore

Affiliate Disclosure

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to them.

More details here

Important:  BetterSleepSimplified.com is for informational purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always consult a physician for sleep and health concerns.  See additional information.