If you’re one of the 70 million Americans who suffers from chronic sleep problems, your mobile device or TV set may be to blame.1 Numerous studies show the connection between screen use and poor sleep, yet according to a poll at the National Sleep Foundation, nearly 50 percent of American adults said they used technology in bed at least once a week, and nearly 30 percent admitted they did so daily.2,3 Twenty-one percent of adults even reported that if they woke up in the middle of the night they would check their devices before going back to sleep. For children, the stats are just as troubling. A 2019 study found that three-fourths of American children and adolescents reported the presence of at least one screen device in their bedroom, with around 60 percent reporting regular use of these devices during the hour before bedtime.4 Studies have found that increased screen time can actually exhibit the symptoms of ADHD in children.5
Find out how screen time before bed affects sleep quality, how poor sleep results in poor health, and how to break the habit of endless scrolling.
Does Screen Time Before Bed Really Affect Our Sleep?
According to Harneet Walia, MD, a sleep disorders specialist, screen time keeps our minds psychologically engaged, especially in the case of smartphones.6 Engaging the brain with information and entertainment keeps us active and delays restorative sleep, even after we power down.
Another reason screen time interferes with sleep is the blue light that these screens emit. Research indicates there is a correlation between blue light and suppressed levels of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycles.7 When exposed to blue light, lower levels of melatonin result in a delayed bedtime. This delayed bedtime may mean less overall sleep if you have to be up early.
How Poor Sleep Affects Our Overall Health
Sleep is crucial to our health and well-being. During sleep, our brain and body slow down and recover, sending signals throughout the body that support cardiovascular function, our immune system, and metabolism. Poor sleep doesn’t just result in low energy and a crabby mood either. According to research from Harvard, poor sleep on a consistent basis puts people at risk for the following health issues:8
- Heart disease and hypertension
- Mood disorders
- Weakened immunity
- Increased mortality risk
Break the Habit of Endless Scrolling
According to behavioral psychologist Susan Weinschenk, the hormone dopamine is behind our desire to scroll.9 Whether you want to find a piece of information via Google, talk to someone through text, or see what friends and family are up to on social media, all we have to do is log in. Dopamine initiates the seeking behavior and we are rewarded with a news story, Tweet, text, or post, making us seek more. The unpredictability of what we’ll find keeps us in a dopamine-induced loop.
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While endless novelty and accessibility make social media scrolling more tempting than ever, there are ways to break the scroll and begin to use your devices mindfully. Here are some ideas:
- Turn off auto-notifications
- Use timers to limit your screen use
- Delete apps on your phone and tablet
- Activate grayscale to make your device less bright and enticing
7 Ways to Reduce Screen Time Before Bed
Reducing screen time before bed will likely have a positive impact on your sleep and your overall health, but it can mean making a big shift in your daily habits. Especially if you consider Netflix, YouTube, or video games a regular part of your wind-down routine at night, or if the only time you have for studying are in those quiet hours before bed. Like most things in life, moderation is key, and there are ways to cut down on screen time before bed to protect your sleep without being too drastic. Here are seven easy ways to start:
- Know what you’re dealing with: Becoming aware of your screen use is the first step in stepping back. Install an app on your phone or tablet that tracks how you spend your time online. You may be surprised by what you find.
- Power down or silent your phone at night: It’s infinitely easier not to get distracted by an email or social media notification if your device is switched off.
- Set a reminder: Set a reminder on your phone one hour before bed to power down screens or move your devices out of sight.
- Keep devices out of the bedroom: You may like snuggling in bed while you watch your favorite true crime show, but it’s best to keep your TV watching outside. Same goes for tablets and phones. By banishing devices from the room, you protect the sanctity of the bedroom as a sleep domain.
- Cut down on sugar and caffeine: You might be reaching for your devices because you’re not sleepy yet. Could it be the coffee you had in the late afternoon or that chocolate chip cookie after dinner? Cutting down on sugar and caffeine in the hours before bed is just as important as cutting down on screen time before bed.
- Explore relaxation techniques before bed: Instead of nodding off to the sounds of detectives solving crimes, explore some other ways to wind down before bed with a relaxing bedtime ritual. This may include taking a hot bath, meditating, or listening to some soft music.
- Make tomorrow’s to-do list: To quiet down a busy mind that might have you opening up your calendar or sending a last-minute email, make a plan for tomorrow. Making a to-do list will give you the assurance that you don’t have to solve everything right now. It’s okay (and necessary!) to rest.
If you find that anxiety, stress, or symptoms of ADHD are interfering with your sleep or leading you to turn to screens more often than you’d like, a non-prescription medication like Brillia can help. Specifically targeted to reduce anxiety, stress, and irritability while improving focus and clarity, Brillia is a homeopathic medication that contains no harsh chemicals. The active ingredient in Brillia consists of antibodies to the S100B protein, which is involved in a number of cellular processes, including mood regulation. Brillia works by targeting and attaching to the S100B protein and regulating its activity without causing any harmful side effects or interfering with other medications or supplements. The gentle, yet impactful medication effectively reduces symptoms of anxiety and irritability at the source without impacting other systems in the body so you can feel more centered and balanced. Brillia works best in combination with healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating healthy foods and practicing mindfulness, which support your aim to cut back on screen time and get better sleep.
Learn more about how Brillia works and find more resources about controlling screen time and improving sleep at the Brillia blog.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a certificate in Narrative Therapy. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and VICE.
References: 1https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_us.html, 2https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-electronics-affect-sleep, 3https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/bedtime-screen-time-may-reduce-sleep-quality, 4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5839336/, 5https://newsroom.clevelandclinic.org/2019/07/18/preschooler-screen-time-linked-to-attention-problems/, 6https://health.clevelandclinic.org/put-the-phone-away-3-reasons-why-looking-at-it-before-bed-is-a-bad-habit/, 7https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.01413.2009, 8https://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk, 9https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-wise/201209/why-were-all-addicted-texts-twitter-and-google
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