Avoiding screens before bed will help you sleep

Tips to help you sleep

Avoiding screens before bedtime

We’re all aware of how the glow from electronic devices will stop you from falling asleep. But it seems Australians aren’t getting the message. Up to 68% of us report that we have trouble falling asleep easily and yet a high number of us sleep with our phones right next to our beds. To break the screen habit, you need a routine where you simply shut the screens down for half an hour before shut-eye.

Decades ago, a television in the bedroom was considered an extravagance. Today, it’s commonplace. However, today we are more likely to be looking at a laptop, or a phone just before we go to sleep. Of course, some of us even watch TV at the same time as working on our laptop and checking our phones.

So many electronic screens come with a downside: deprivation of sleep, or worse, full-blown insomnia.

Obviously, if you are up late watching TV or playing a game on your phone when you should be sleeping, you may wake up the next morning feeling deprived of sleep. But even if your screen time isn’t cutting into your regular bedtime, it can be keeping you from falling asleep.

The brain creates a hormone called melatonin that regulates a person’s sleep and awake cycles. Too much light, as emitted from video screens, at night can affect melatonin production and trick the brain into thinking that your body isn’t ready for sleep.

The proliferation of portable electronics with bright video screens has exacerbated this problem, and in fact, smartphones, tablets and Kindle readers may be producing a worse effect than television. Portable devices emit “blue light”—not really blue (because obviously, you can see multiple colours on your phone), but short-wavelength light—that is similar to the light we experience outside during the day. As a result, the brain is getting a signal from this blue light that it’s still daytime.  This is despite the darkness outside. Because your brain is wired to keep you awake during the day, this is possibly leading to insomnia or sleep deprivation. Furthermore, because people hold phones and other devices so close to their faces, they are amplifying this effect more than from a TV that’s 10 feet away.

Evidence is mounting that the screen time/sleep deprivation correlation might affect children and teenagers even more than adults. The latest study comes from The European Sleep Research Assoc. through their research that discovered that adolescents who partook in more than 3.5 hours of screen time a day were more likely to suffer sleep deprivation than those with only two hours of screen time.

So what should you do to reduce the effects of screen time at night to possibly stave off sleep deprivation? Reducing the brightness of your device can help, as well as using orange tinted glasses when watching a screen after the sun goes down. But the obvious answer is to to put down any electronic device at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Find some other way to wind down, including reading a book—not on your tablet, but the old-fashioned way with pages and a bookmark. Not turning on your television or laptop right before bed will give your brain a rest, in more ways than one.


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