Taking one last look through your emails or swiping through social feeds before bed may seem innocent enough, but research is finding that it can really do a number on melatonin production.
“The bright lights [of a phone] do not let our body create the necessary melatonin to help us fall asleep,” Sudeep Singh, M.D., an internist with Apprize Medical, tells mindbodygreen. The fact that we tend to hold our phones close to our faces only makes matters worse, flooding our eyes with melatonin-suppressing blue light.
According to a sweeping systematic review on the link between light and sleep, studies continue to find that the blue light of cellphones can negatively affect melatonin secretion at night. One 2021 trial published in the journal Clocks & Sleep went one step further to study how cellphone use affects overall sleep quality. After 33 men read either on their cellphone or from a physical book before bed, the phone group had significantly less deep, slow-wave sleep early in the night than the book group. Separate research on medical students found that those who used their phones more throughout the day (regardless of timing) were more likely to have a disturbed circadian rhythm with unpredictable melatonin levels.
When our bodies don’t produce enough melatonin, we feel awake during a time when we should be asleep—which can lead us to rely on supplemental melatonin for a quick fix. But not only does taking melatonin as a nightly sleep supplement not work for most people; it may throw off your body’s ability to produce its own melatonin over time.
“Much of the purported benefits of taking melatonin are anecdotal, and while it’s one of the most popular sleep aids, there is little evidence to support using melatonin unless you have some specific conditions or circumstances,” notes Christina Graham, R.N., a registered nurse and Noom coach.
The best way to ensure your melatonin levels are up to snuff every night is to take steps to support your body’s natural production of the hormone.