In today’s connected world, the proliferation of screens and mobile device technology has drastically changed our dependency on our handheld technology. From the casual late night browsing of our social media platforms, texting with friends and family, or reading one last news story, we can all be easily guilty of hitting the buttons instead of the hay when we go to bed. In a 2011 Sleep in America Poll, the National Sleep Foundation found that 58% of their responders admitted to conducting some sort of activity on their mobile devices within an hour of going to bed and were less likely to report getting a good night’s sleep. While the late texting and browsing seems like common place activities, it can actually be harmful to your sleep in many ways.

How does screen time before bed impact your sleep?

Knowing the negative impact of technology and screens on your sleep and ways to create good habits around your use of technology can be key in improving your slumber. Consider the following ways that devices and screens harm your rest.

Bright light exposure disrupts sleep cycle

Exposure to bright screens can disrupt your body’s rhythms, resulting in lackluster sleep. Cell phones, tablets, laptops and TVs emit short-wavelength enriched light known as blue light that imitates daylight to our brains. This slows down our production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep and wake cycle, also known as circadian rhythm. There are some studies that suggest having a continual suppression of melatonin production is also associated with higher cancer risk.

Stimulation from technology can make you more alert and less sleepy

Watching TV, playing video games, watching videos, engaging in communication and reading all require mental processing. It is tempting to pick up the device for 5 minutes of late night browsing, but this can easily turn into hours of mindless entertainment, causing stimulation that actually prevents our bodies from resting well. If you do not want to miss a favorite show, consider recording it for the next day or just streaming it online at another time.

Tips for putting down the screens and getting better sleep

Impose a 2-hour block on the use of technology before bed - To give your body time to prepare for your impending sleep and to not overstimulate your mind, try to avoid using your phone, laptop, tablets and TV 2 hours before bed. If you want something to read, find a printed book or magazine. While eReaders such as the Amazon Fire or the Apple iPad are convenient for storing your literary reads, they are not the best choice for late night reading due to their blue light emittance.

Turn off all sound notifications during sleep - Uninterrupted sleep is quality sleep. Turn off all of your notifications while you sleep including emails, calls, texts, and application alerts. Many OS’ now include the option to set times where your phone blocks these types of interruptions and will even allow you to only let certain contacts ring through.

Make your sleep environment as dark as possible - Sometimes it doesn’t even take us directly interacting with our technology to have our sleep impacted by it. Lights, glow, and even ambient light can affect your sleep. Consider turning off TVs, shutting the door, covering windows with blackout curtains, flipping your phone over so that you do not see blinking LEDs, even covering the LED digits of your alarm clock to make your bedroom as dark as possible. If a blackout of your room is not possible, consider sleeping with a mask over your eyes to prevent any lights from bothering your rest.

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