Globally, the average person spends nearly 7 hours looking at a screen each day. Of this, 3 hours and 16 minutes are spent looking at mobile devices. With this amount of screen time, it’s nearly inevitable that a lot of people are engaging with technology around bedtime. Though you may love watching late-night movies or evening texting sessions with friends, these activities might not be good for you. Read on to learn more about what tech does to your sleep quality.

Lowering Melatonin Production

person using MacBook in bed

Image via Unsplash by hannynaibaho using Unsplash License

When natural light dims in the evening, the brain produces melatonin, which helps promote sleep. The blue light emitted by tablets, televisions, and smartphones disrupt melatonin production. The Sleep Health Foundation studied the impact of bright tablets and laptops in the five hours preceding bedtime and found that while one hour of screen time did not disrupt sleep, screen time lasting 1.5 hours or more did impact sleepiness.

This is true of any device that emits blue light, including e-readers, which may seem like a healthy way to unwind at night. Individuals who use e-readers as opposed to traditional books take longer to fall asleep, have lower sleep quality, and feel less alert the next morning.

It’s generally recommended that you avoid screen time for at least the last two hours before bed. For the best results, limit screen time to less than 90 minutes in the three hours before this screen-free time as well, so you’re looking at screens as little as possible in the last five hours before you go to sleep.

The effects of screen time before bed compound over time when you look at blue lights habitually. Using a bright screen before bed repeatedly over the course of five days can delay your body’s sleep clock by 90 minutes, pushing your bedtime back significantly.

Stimulating Your Brain

The 2011 Sleep in America Poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that 95% of people use electronics in the last hour before they go to sleep. When you use technology in that final hour before bed, it can decrease the quality of your sleep. People who self-report technology use within an hour of bedtime indicate that they feel sleepier during the day.

Blue light isn’t the only disruptive culprit here. Many smartphone, tablet, and computer activities are very stimulating, encouraging your brain to wake up and engage. Playing a game, texting with a friend, completing a work assignment, or studying for a test can all keep your brain active and working. 

To help prevent excess screen time, try limiting the notifications that you allow in the final hours before bed. You likely don’t need alerts about smartphone games during in this time slot, no matter how exciting the bonus may seem for playing a few more rounds in the evening. This kind of exciting activity will wake you up and delay the necessary process of unwinding and relaxing before you go to sleep.

Extending Your Social Hours

If you feel the need to stay available and respond to messages at all hours, this can make it extremely difficult to disconnect and unwind the way your brain needs to in order to fully recharge. Messages that are stressful, alarming, or upsetting can further impact your sleep by giving your brain fresh fodder to worry over as you’re trying to get to dreamland. Consider setting your phone to only allow texts and phone calls from a few select individuals after bedtime, so you’re reachable in case of an emergency without allowing minor requests and disruptions to come through.

Delaying Sleepiness

Even though you may feel like you’re engaging in enjoyable activities on your phone that help you escape from the stresses of your daytime routine, these can still wake you up and keep your brain firing long after you need to go to sleep. Games are notorious for cleverly designing levels that push players to keep moving on to the next one. What started as just one game can easily become a marathon that lasts for hours. The same is true for binge-worthy television shows that can keep you watching all night long.

Social activities are even more stimulating than passive pursuits like watching a show. What begins as a quick text can turn into a lengthy conversation that goes into the night. A quick email may leave you up working for hours if you get an unexpected response and choose to open it even after your work hours are over.

Setting boundaries for your bedtime activities is difficult, but it can make a dramatic difference in your sleep duration and quality. If you really intend to send a single email and close the project, go ahead and turn off email notifications for the rest of the night so you’re not tempted to continue working if you get a response. Set an alarm for games or shows that will prompt you to turn things off at the appropriate time and prevent you from getting hooked and losing track of time.

Disrupting Sleep With Alerts

If you don’t silence alerts on your devices, they can pull you back into wakefulness at any hour of the night. Sleeping next to electronic devices robs children between the ages of 6 and 17 of almost a full hour of sleep.

Fortunately, nearly all devices are now equipped with settings that allow you to specify who and what can reach you during certain hours. Set up a period of relaxation in the evening where your devices won’t chime, ping, or ring. Make these restrictions even more strict when it’s time to actually go to bed. For children, it’s often best to remove the devices from the room entirely so there are no late-night disruptions to wake your kids or teens after their bedtime.

Limiting evening screen time is a healthy choice for everyone in the family. Parents can wake up feeling more alert while children may find it easier to get the most out of their school curriculum. The right sleep habits will help your kids engage better throughout the day, so we can enjoy the best possible experience with them here at Crème de la Crème childcare.