The Secret of Quality Sleep: The Science Behind Avoiding Phones Before Bed

Two innovative sleep studies conducted on the International Space Station (ISS) are shedding light on how astronauts and individuals on Earth can enhance their sleep patterns. The research highlights that to improve sleep quality, it’s important to avoid using smartphone use before bedtime.

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dont use your phone before bed

Illustration: Lenka T.

How many times have you been told not to use your phone before sleep? These are not some old wives’ tales such as “don’t sit too close to the TV, you’ll go blind. In this case, there is a plausible scientific explanation. The main culprit is the blue light. 

Namely, The European Space Agency (ESA) emphasized the impact of blue light on our Circadian rhythm. In a recent post on X. The Agency stated that avoiding phone screens before sleep is advisable due to its disruptive effect.

Circular light and sleeping in space 

ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen is currently leading the Huginn mission on the ISS. The mission encompasses two studies aimed at comprehending Circadian light and sleep patterns in space. The unique environment of the ISS, where astronauts witness 16 sunsets and sunrises daily due to its rapid orbit around Earth, poses challenges in maintaining a natural daily rhythm. To counter this, the ISS follows Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and establishes consistent wake-up and bedtime routines, as explained in a press release

Circadian rhythms are natural processes governed by a 24-hour cycle, primarily influenced by light and darkness. These rhythms are crucial for regulating various aspects of life, spanning from animals and plants to microbes. However, in space, these rhythms can become distorted, leading to issues like insomnia and disrupted sleep for astronauts. 

To address these challenges, Mogensen employs a specialized light developed by SAGA Space Architects from Copenhagen. This unique lamp is engineered to support astronauts’ circadian rhythms in space. It turns red in the evening to simulate a sunset and blue in the morning to mimic sunrise. 

A new device to track brain activity  

In addition to the specialized lighting, Mogensen employs an in-ear measuring device that tracks his brain’s electroencephalogram (EEG) activity for the sleeping-in-orbit study. This device, developed by researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, allows continuous monitoring of brain activity throughout the night. 

The researchers from these two studies are collaborating to analyze their data comprehensively, aiming to gain insights into sleep both in space and on Earth. This research holds particular relevance today as studies have suggested that climate change is impacting sleep patterns globally.

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