Screens and Your Sleep: The Impact of Night-Time Use
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Today, electronic devices have a place equivalent to our shadow. We wake up with it and go to bed with it. But, unfortunately, most of us are guilty of playing games, watching movies, videos, etc., before sleep or merely sleeping with our cell phones beside us.
But we don’t realise the impact of this night-time use on your sleep. Sleep experts have been digging into the relationship between screen time and sleep. Here, we throw light on the findings that just might surprise you. Read on!
How Do Screens Affect the Sleep-Wake Cycle?
We know our circadian rhythm or internal clock regulates our sleep-wake cycle. For instance, sunlight or bright light alerts our brain and encourages us to indulge in activities. Likewise, darkness induces our body to produce the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
Electronic devices also emit a short-wavelength blue light, which bears a close resemblance to the sunlight. The light deceives our body into thinking it’s daytime; hence, we face difficulty sleeping. Here are a few ways how screens affect our sleep-wake cycle:
It Keeps Your Mind Engaged
If you use electronic devices like mobile, TV, etc., before sleep, it stimulates your brain and makes it active and alert. Consequently, it becomes difficult to tell your brain it’s time to sleep.
You would find it difficult to sleep even if you engage with your smartphone for a few minutes. Furthermore, even if you sleep with your mobile beside you or under the pillow, its chime or alert notifications would function the same way and make your brain active and sleep a far-fetched dream.
Mobile phones also emit electromagnetic waves, which exposes us to electromagnetic radiation, which can lead to headaches, sleep disturbances etc.
Light-Emitting Screens Impact Your Sleep
Any exposure to light lessens the production of melatonin. But studies indicate that the blue light emitted from electronic devices like your mobile screen is particularly disruptive.
According to studies, blue light disrupted sleep for twice as long as the disruption caused by green light. The light is also harmful to your eyes. Studies conclude a direct relationship between screen time and poor sleep.
Watched Content Might Trigger Intense Emotions
It is another relation between screen time and sleep. You can enjoy restful sleep only when you are relaxed, at peace, and calm.
We often like watching movies, browsing social media, etc. But, while there could be good and relaxing content, you can also encounter content that makes you agitated and trigger emotions like anger, aggression, anxiety, etc.
All these negative emotions will make you upset and delay your REM sleep by making your body aroused, awake, and alert. You might end up watching your room ceiling for hours.
Screen Time: How Much is Too Much
There is no hard and fast rule set for the right screen time for adults, though we do have a guideline for children. Let’s walk through the experts’ recommended screen time for different age groups. Anything beyond it is considered too much.
Babies of this age group should not have any screen time. Instead, they should play and interact with their parents and loved ones.
Children of this age can have little screen time, but it should not be more than 30 minutes to an hour. Furthermore, it should be of high-quality programming and have good educational content.
This age group enjoys educational content as well as recreational content. But the screen time should be limited to about three hours maximum on weekdays and no more than an hour and a half on weekends.
6 Years and Above
There is no specific, defined, and one-size-fits-all guideline for children above five years and adults. The only care and decisive factor for the right time is screen time that does not interfere with your learning, physical activity, office work, relationships, sleep, and mental health.
While screen time for work is inevitable, experts recommend limiting social media screen time to a maximum of 30 minutes for better sleep and health.
How Long Before Bed to Stop Using Your Phone?
The best time to set the screen off and sleep is two hours before retiring to bed.
While our smartphone is the ultimate culprit, we should also disconnect from other electronics like TV, computer, tablets, etc. They all can be the culprit of disruptive sleep.
We should also take care not to sleep with our smartphones. Its charging should preferably be in a different room to help you sleep better.
Does Screen Time Cause Insomnia in Teenagers?
Children and teenagers are susceptible to all devices emitting blue light. In addition, several studies have established the relationship between excessive screen time and sleep quality deterioration in kids and teenagers.
Teenagers’ and children’s eyes allow more blue light in, which makes them more sensitive to it and its adverse effects.
It not only suppresses their melatonin levels but also eats their sleep time significantly. As a result, children and teens with longer screen time have insomnia and can become victims of anxiety. In addition, it triggered negative emotions and showcased unhealthy behaviours in them like school problems, anger, aggression.
As per the study mentioned above, it indicates that as high as 57% of teenagers and children are victims of poor sleep quality due to excessive screen time. The situation worsens in children and teenagers with a TV or other blue-light-emitting device installed in their bedroom. It even includes gaming consoles.
This sleep deprivation impacts not only their physical and mental health but also their academic performance. Their social behaviour is also sadly lacking, and they do not grow as a well-developed and balanced adult.
Tips to Reduce Screen Time
Now that we understand the negative impact of screen time on sleep, let’s walk through a few tips and ways to mitigate the negative effect and reduce screen time.
- Disconnect from all electronic devices two hours before going to bed.
- Restrict the electronics used during the day to as minimum as possible. The restriction should be more stringent on children and teens.
- The bedroom should be a screen-free zone to rule out all blue-light emissions.
- The bedroom should have ambient and dim lights that do not impact your sleep.
- Try to turn the night-time mode on devices like smartphones if they have to be in your bedroom. This mode reduces the brightness as well as blue-light emissions, which helps you sleep better.
- Today, you can easily find orange-tinted blue-light-blocking glasses. They shield the eyes from the blue light and block its negative impact. They are also inexpensive to buy. However, they can be inconvenient, especially if you dislike wearing glasses.
- Create a soothing and relaxing bedtime routine and follow all sleep hygiene tips for better sleep.
- Use red, yellow, or orange night lights as they don’t disrupt your sleep.
- Limit and monitor violent content as it can negatively impact even if viewed during the day.
Consistent and good quality sleep is vital for all. By adopting healthy screen habits and sleep hygiene, we can easily lead a quality life while enjoying the benefits of electronic gadgets.
Does reducing screen time improve sleep?
Reducing screen time definitely leads to an improved sleep schedule and better sleep quality. It also mitigates daytime tiredness, improves focus and concentration, and renders several other benefits.
What can I use instead of screen time before bed?
There are plenty of alternatives to use instead of screen time before bed like:
- Reading a book
- Writing a journal
- Chatting with your spouse or siblings
- Planning for the next day
- Indulging in a hot bath
- Listen to music
- Colour a painting
- Fold clothes
- Apply a face mask
- Indulge in sleep-inducing exercises.
How does screen time affect the brain?
Too much screen time has a detrimental effect on the brain, especially in kids and teenagers. It leads to the premature thinning of the cortex and sends it into an addictive state. It adversely impacts your mood and mental health, shortens your attention span, and disrupts concentration.
How does screen time affect mental health?
Excessive screen time leads to negative mental health. It causes a plethora of mental problems like psychological problems, depression, anxiety, low emotional stability, more prone to aggression and anger, etc.
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