Technology and screen time have become an integral part of life for both adults and children. It allows for better communication and an incredible ability to exchange information. However, it can also lead to the sleep deprivation that affects anywhere from 28 to 44 percent of the population. A few simple habit changes can turn things around so you still get the full seven to nine hours of sleep you need.
Screen Time and the Sleep Cycle
Your brain largely relies on natural light to correctly time the start of the sleep cycle. The sunlight that reaches the Earth’s surface lies on the blue spectrum. Special photo receptors in the eyes absorb blue spectrum light and send signals directly to the part of the brain that controls the sleep cycle. During the day when light levels are high, sleep hormones are suppressed. As light fades in the evening, the brain releases sleep hormones to begin the sleep cycle.
The light emitted from the screens of your favorite electronic devices like the televisions, laptops, or smartphones can also emit a blue spectrum light. While it may not be as powerful as light from the sun, it’s still absorbed by the same photoreceptors and travels to the brain to suppress sleep hormones. Consequently, screen time can throw off the timing of the sleep cycle, leading to sleep deprivation.
How to Manage Screen Time for Better Sleep
The responsible use of technology and electronics can certainly help you get better sleep. However, you also need to have the right conditions in your bedroom. A comfortable mattress, cool temperatures, and complete darkness are also essential. If you start with a room set up for success, you’re more likely to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Set a Curfew
A curfew on the use of electronics can help your whole family get better sleep. In general, your brain needs two to three hours to adjust to changing light levels so the curfew should start two to three hours before bedtime.
Calm Down the Evening Atmosphere
If you’ve already got an electronic curfew in place, your next step is to bring the evening energy levels down in your home. Try dimming the lights, turning off the television, listening to quiet music, or reading a book. If you have young children, it’s a good time to work on puzzles, color, or engage in other quiet activities.
Remove Electronic Devices from the Bedroom
For many people, the use of electronic devices at bedtime is a habit that’s hard to break. Help yourself by completely removing them from the bedroom. The light from the television won’t keep you awake and notifications from your smartphone can wait until morning.
Use a Bedtime Routine to Your Advantage
Help yourself fall asleep by using your bedtime routine to your advantage. Perform activities in the routine in the same order and start at the same time each night. Over time, the brain recognizes your routine and releases sleep hormones when it senses the start of your bedtime routine.
Adequate sleep is a full partner in your overall health and well-being. It may take time and a concentrated effort to develop habits that manage screen time better, but it’s well worth it. Better sleep acts as the foundation on which to build your personal and professional goals. So turn off the phone and shut the laptop to give your body a chance to get the rest it needs.