How Does Screen Time Affect Your Sleep?

We all know that going to bed and getting between 7-9 hours of sleep is an important part of daily life. We also know that going to bed and staring at a device, whether it’s a phone, tablet or even a kindle, can have an adverse effect on your sleep quality. But just how bad really is it?

Understanding Your Biological Clock

Your body’s biological clock, which is based on a roughly 24-hour day, controls most circadian rhythms.  Circadian rhythms synchronize with environmental cues (light and temperature just to name a couple) about the actual time of day, but they continue even in the absence of cues.

So, let’s put this into perspective.

When the sun rises in the morning, you awaken naturally as your body produces cortisol, a hormone that makes you feel awake and alert. As daylight fades and the night sky appears, the body releases another hormone, melatonin, that produces feelings of sleepiness.

The Effect of Back Lit Devices

However, when back-lit devices such as smartphones, tablets, readers, laptops and computers are thrown into the mix, along with fluorescent and LED lights, they reduce or delay the natural production of melatonin in the evening and decrease feelings of sleepiness. This is due to short-wavelength enriched light, known as blue light.

Blue light can also reduce the amount of time you spend in slow-wave and rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, two stages of the sleep cycle that are vital for cognitive functioning.

So it might surprise you to learn that almost 60% of the people we surveyed as part of Sleep Week are using a blue-light emitting device just before bed, with another 21% of us sometimes using a device and startlingly only 20% of us claim to never use a device before bed.

Tempting as it may be to use your phone before bed and endlessly scroll through TikTok or send that last email before work tomorrow, countless studies have shown these devices can severely interfere with sleep and, in turn, can affect your overall performance the following day.

So we thought it would be a good idea for us to provide you with some tips from Sleep Foundation on reducing your blue-light exposure prior to bed.

Use Night Time Mode

Probably the quickest, easiest, however, not a total fix, is putting your devices on night mode. It’s proven to reduce (not eliminate) the output of blue light making it easier on the eyes and the perfect solution if you absolutely must check your smartphone, tablet or laptop just before bed.

Make Your Bedroom a Screen-Free Zone

Now, a lot of us use our phones as an alarm for getting up in the morning. So, we’re not saying to switch back to an analogue clock but maybe set your alarm in advance and leave it in another room – this will also force you to get out of bed on a cold winter’s day. As far as TV goes – maybe evaluate whether or not you truly need a TV in the bedroom and if you do set a time to unplug the TV from the warm and stick to it.

Blue Light Filtered Glasses

An outside the box tip here. Just because you may or may not need reading glasses, anyone can get themselves a pair of blue-light filtering glasses designed to shield your eyes from blue light emissions. This is a great option if you’re a desk worker and find yourself staring a screen 9-5.

Do Something Productive

If you’re simply bored and find yourself endlessly scrolling your feed, you might just need to channel that attention somewhere else. Try listening to a podcast while going for a walk, writing a journal, doing a puzzle, learning an instrument or a language, or, our personal favourite, reading a book in bed with a cup of chamomile tea.

Get More Sleep Tips From SleepMaker

Want to discover how to get a better nights sleep? Discover the SleepMaker Sleep Guide. Carefully curated articles by sleep experts.

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