Put Your Phone Away: How Screen Time Affects the Quality of Your Sleep
Some may argue that sleeping is one of the best parts of the day. You get into bed, snuggle under the covers, rest your head on a comfortable cushion, and switch off your thoughts for the night. However, there is a specific routine that may be hindering this practice.
Most people spend a lot of time on their devices. With more free time at your disposal, evenings are a seemingly perfect opportunity to scroll through your phone and catch up on the latest social media posts. But do you know that using devices before bed can have a detrimental impact on your sleep?
Here, we delve into the negative effects of screen time on the quality of your night’s rest. We also share some tips on how to improve your sleep pattern by reducing phone usage before you get into bed.
How screen time affects your sleep
It is universally acknowledged that all adults require seven to nine hours of sleep every night on average to feel fully recharged the next morning. Sometimes, certain commitments may prevent you from enjoying the rest time you deserve. But, in most situations, it’s our phones, TVs, and laptops that are impairing our sleep.
In healthy adults, our biological clock follows a 24-hour wake-sleep cycle. As the sun rises and daylight gradually enters through the curtains, the body releases a hormone called ‘cortisol’ that makes you feel alert and awake. As the day gets later and darkness falls over the evening, the body produces ‘melatonin’, a hormone that ushers in feelings of sleepiness. Electronic devices and bright screens, which emit what is known as ‘blue light’, can delay or decrease the natural production of melatonin. This happens becausetoo much light from screens before bedtime confuses your body. In fact, it gives it the impression that you aren’t ready to doze off. Blue light from your phone or laptop deceives your brain, as it will think it is still daytime and therefore not time for bed yet. According to neuroscience professor Matthew Walker, as opposed to reading a printed book, reading on an iPad can suppress your melatonin release by over 50% at night.
What’s more, taking in emotional news (whether positive or negative) from social media or playing online games can increase brain stimulation and heart rate. This means that, as electrical activity increases in your brain and neurons start racing, you will find it more difficult to calm down and nod off. Not to mention that prolonged screen time exposure can also have harmful effects on your retinas.
Additionally, spending time on your device before going to bed can reduce both your sense of alertness in the morning and the amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The latter is a significantly important stage of your sleep; in fact, among its many functions, it helps your brain to preserve and consolidate new information.
Limiting screen exposure and improving your sleep
Screen time at night can have an array of negative effects on the quality of your sleep. If you are struggling to fall asleep, and you’ve cut down on screen time, there may be other medical conditions impacting your sleep. For example, pain, stress, and anxiety might be keeping you up at night. To get to a faster resolution for these problems, you may want to consider investing in a private medical care plan so you can relax and sleep better sooner. Sleep is crucial and you should not miss out on its invaluable mental and physical benefits.
To avoid sleep deprivation, headaches, and many other drawbacks from lack of sleep, there are also some simple steps you can follow to fix your evening screen habits. Here are a few tips on how to regain a healthy night’s sleep:
- Set boundaries – One way to repair your screen habits at night is tobreak them! In fact, by nipping the problem in the bud, you can effectively restore a healthy sleep pattern. Think about setting a reminder about an hour before you plan to go to bed. As the alarm sounds, you will know it’s time to distract yourself from the phone for the evening.
Ultimately, it will not take long until this becomes a consolidated routine. In fact, you will no longer feel the urge to scroll through your device before bedtime.
- Read a book or listen to a podcast – Once upon a time, you would fall asleep to the sound of bedtime stories. Why not reclaim that habit? Reading a classic paperback book is an excellent nighttime ritual that both calms your mind and induces sleepiness.
Alternatively, you can listen to a podcast. This will help you doze off faster as your melatonin will not be disrupted by the ‘blue light’ of your devices.
- Meditate – What better way to unplug than to practice some all-important meditation? Not only does it reinvigorate your body and mind, but it can also create the ideal mental condition for a restful, profound sleep.
From reducing your heart rate to increased melatonin production, meditation is a great way to restore a healthy sleep pattern.
- Keep your phone away and switch off the Wi-Fi – Keeping your device within your reach can endanger your sleep. The temptation to check it as soon as you hear a notification sound can be too hard to resist. Therefore, leave it on a desk or on your bookshelf where you cannot get to it easily. Chances are that, if you are nice and warm in bed, you will not jump out just to check a message.
You may want to consider switching your Wi-Fi off too. It has been found, in fact, that Wi-Fi routers emit radiations (EMF radiation) that are associated with several adverse health effects, including low quality of sleep.
There is no denying that scrolling through your phone before bed can negatively impact the quality of your sleep. From obstructing the production of melatonin to reducing alertness when you wake up, screen time has several damaging effects on our night’s rest. However, by putting some simple stepsinto practice, you can actively limit your device usage and fix your natural sleep pattern.