Do you ever find yourself scrolling through your phone or watching TV before bed, only to toss and turn for hours? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, many of us have become so reliant on our screens that we often forget the impact they can have on our sleep.
But what exactly is it about screens that can disrupt our sleep patterns? And how can we ensure we’re getting the rest we need to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day?
The answer lies in the blue light emitted by screens, which can trick our brains into thinking it’s still daytime. This can throw off our natural circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall asleep at night and causing us to feel groggy and unfocused during the day.
Several studies have confirmed this link between blue light and sleep disruption. In one study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers found that exposure to blue light in the evening suppressed melatonin production, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. This, in turn, delayed the onset of sleep and reduced the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep participants got throughout the night.
Another study published in the Journal of Biological Rhythms found that even small amounts of blue light exposure before bed can have a significant impact on sleep quality. Participants who were exposed to just 45 minutes of blue light before bed experienced reduced melatonin production, took longer to fall asleep, and spent less time in deep, restorative sleep.
Screens and Sleep
But it’s not just blue light that can disrupt our sleep patterns. The mere act of using screens before bed can also have a negative impact on our sleep. In a study published in the journal Sleep Medicine, researchers found that participants who used their phones in bed had longer sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) and shorter total sleep time compared to those who didn’t use their phones in bed.
How to Improve Sleep Quality
So, what can we do to ensure we’re getting the sleep we need, even in the age of screens? The first step is to be mindful of our screen usage before bed. This means avoiding screen time for at least an hour before we plan to sleep, and opting for relaxing activities like reading or taking a warm bath instead.
If we must use screens before bed, there are a few simple steps we can take to minimize the impact on our sleep. One option is to use a blue light filter on our screens, which can reduce the amount of blue light emitted and help our brains wind down for sleep. Many devices now come with built-in blue light filters, or there are a variety of apps available for download that can do the same thing.
Another option is to wear blue light blocking glasses, which can block up to 99% of blue light from entering our eyes. These glasses can be particularly helpful for those who work night shifts or spend a lot of time in front of screens during the evening hours.
Ultimately, getting enough sleep is essential for our physical and mental health, and screens can have a significant impact on our ability to get the rest we need. By being mindful of our screen usage before bed and taking steps to minimize the impact of blue light, we can ensure we’re getting the sleep we need to thrive.