cartoon drawing of cell phone text alerts making noise to wake someone up at night

7 Things to try if your phone keeps waking you up at night

By Jason Wooden, PhD | September 16, 2021

If you’re frustrated because your smart phone keeps waking you up at night, there’s more at stake than you realize.

The light and noise from your phone can arouse you out of deep restful sleep into a lighter sleep.  Compulsive phone checkers may also wake up during the night out of habit.

Sleep experts recommend you keep your phone out of the bedroom. However, you can try adjusting your phone settings, changing your habits, and various other remedies.

There’s WAY more at stake than you realize if your phone is waking you up at the night

You’re sound asleep and a bunch of phone beeps you can’t ignore arouses you in the middle of the night.  You pick up the phone and take a quick look to see what the heck it could be.

Somehow you manage to fall back to sleep only to be awaken again an hour later…

There’s also those nights when you get a bunch alert pings from a flurry of text messages on group chat…

Regardless of what phone nuisances your dealing with, it’s all the same to your sleep when a phone keeps waking you up.

Frustrating nights, mornings that come all too soon, and stumbling through the day sleep-deprived.

If any of this sounds familiar, you’re likely not the only one.

Every night 1 in 3 people struggle with poor sleep. It’s hard to say how much smart phones is part of the problem.

However, we do know there’s almost 4 billion smart phone users in the world.

And nearly three quarters of Americans sleep with their smart phones in the bedroom.

What’s more is studies estimates that 40 percent of Americans are addicted to them.

With numbers like that, phones in the bedroom are bound to be an issue for people in the US and many other countries.

In fact, a study in Finland found that 44 percent of respondents had been awaken by cell phone noise and 41 percent from the light.

photo of smartphone next to bed

Today, smart phones have become such a part of the bedroom that it’s the last thing many people look at before they go to sleep and the first thing they look at in the morning.

Few people are honest with themselves about the serious damage this could be doing to their sleep and well-being.

Whether it’s the light or noise, we all pay the price when our smart phones intrudes on our slumber.

After a night of poor sleep, your brain doesn’t work as well as it should, you have a harder time learning, and don’t cope as well.

You don’t perform as well at school or on the job.

Over the long-term, it can increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, and dementia.

That’s a whole lot at stake.

Which is why we need to candidly talk about all the things our phones are doing to us at night and what you can realistically do about it.

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Why smart phones in the bedroom are so bad for sleep

Given how sophisticated and busy smart phones are, it’s no surprise they wake people up at night.

(Yes, they’re real busy bodies between email, texting, social media, and all those colorful phone apps.)

Among the biggest rules for good sleep is that your bedroom should be DARK, QUIET, and COOL.

Smart phones break this rule obviously because of the LIGHT and NOISE.  And there’s also some other surprising ways they can affect your sleep.

cartoon drawing of cell phone text alerts making noise to wake someone up at night

1) The light tells our body to wake up

Our brains and body are wired to be in tune with day and night.  Sunlight signals your body through your eyes to stop making the “feel sleepy” hormone melatonin which falls during the day and creeps up as it gets dark.

Bright light from an artificial source such as a phone screen can have the same effect and tell your brain it’s time to wake up.

Even small amounts of ambient light can cause trouble.

photo of frustrated man awaken during night by noise from smart phone

2) The noise is just as bad

With smart phones come all sorts of intruding noise.  There’s the ringer going off at the wrong time, text message alerts, social media alerts, and a long list of 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.

Yes, it can ruin your sleep even if doesn’t wake you up.  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 and ready to go.

You’re more likely feel as if you haven’t slept at all.

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

3) It’s too tempting and dangerous to use as a way to pass the time

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 to help you get back to sleep, you could be playing with dynamite.

Oh, did I mention how exposing yourself to screen light can wake you up?

photo of bricks illustrating how bad habits can get you in trouble

4) It’s too easy to get into a bad habit

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.

cartoon of man awake because spouse’s phone keeps waking him up at night

5) 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, bed mate, or roommate, intruding light and noise from your phone can ruin their sleep too.

It can lead to a bit of understandable frustration and resentment.

7 Things worth a try if your phone keeps waking you up at night

Okay, let’s be honest.

The simplest way to keep your phone from waking you up during the night is to keep it out of the bedroom.

No phone, no intruding light or noise.

That’s what’s your doctor and experts would strongly recommend you do. However, let’s assume have your reasons to still give it a try.

Maybe you really need to keep your phone in the room because of a job or other reasons…

Or maybe you just want to see if there’s a realistic way to make things more manageable.

Depending on your situation, here’s what you can try:

1) Stop using it as an alarm clock

If the reason you’re keeping it in the bedroom is to wake you up, try getting an old fashion alarm clock.

2) Warn friends and family not to call you

If your friends and family are in the habit of calling at odd hours, it’s time to lay down the law and let them know your sleep hours.  Be sure to turn off the ringer too.

3) Make sure it’s on silent mode

It turns out this is pretty simple to set up. You can do it manually or you can actually program your phone to go silent during your sleep hours.

How to schedule silent mode:
Android
iPhone

4) Switch to night mode

If you’re get flashes of screen light during the night, there’s something you can do about that too.

More:
Night Mode on Android
Night Shift on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

5) Keep your phone face down

A time tested and no-tech simple way to protect from unwanted light during the night…

6) Temporarily silence the phone apps

If it’s apps that’s the main culprits, put them to sleep at night.

Turn off notifications:
Android
iPhone

7) Kick the habit

Some people have gotten so hooked up their phones, they just have to keep it nearby. Their brains may have also been trained to wake up to get phone adrenaline hit during the night.

More:
Smartphone Addiction (HelpGuide.org)
7 Ways to Curb Your Smartphone Addiction (Inc.com)l

Do this to get the best possible sleep every night

While your main worry may be that your phone keeps waking you up at night , there’s actually other things that could be making it harder to get a decent night of rest.

That’s because sleep can be affected by all sorts of issues. Many of them arise from your everyday habits.

This makes it important to practice good sleep hygiene which is what you do during the day and evening that sets the stage for good quality sleep.

Besides, why make getting good sleep any harder than it already is?

cartoon of lady asleep because her phone isn’t waking her up at night

For better sleep hygiene, you should:

  • keep consistent wake up & sleep times
  • avoid naps
  • exercise during the day
  • 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 poor sleep becomes a long-term problem.

Too many people are unaware how many other medical issues can cause problems or worsen sleep.  This includes things like asthma, allergies, acid reflux and heartburn, heart issues, chronic pain, and diabetes can keep you up at night.

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

And prescription drugs, anxiety, and depression can also cause or worsen sleep issues.

A doctor can help you identify and work through any underlying issues that may be making it harder to get quality sleep.

Sources:

1. “Talking Points”, World Sleep Society website

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

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

4. “Smartphone Addiction”, Psychology Today online

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

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

8. “100 mind blowing smartphone addiction statistics”, 2021, Diygenius.com

9. Global mobile consumer trends, 2nd edition

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