Screen time before bed negatively affects your sleep

Photo by Dan Gold by Unsplash

By Colin Walker

Sleep keeps us healthy and functioning properly. It lets your body and brain repair, restore, and re-energize for the day ahead. If you don’t get enough sleep, you might experience side effects such as changes in mood, poor memory and focus, and weakened immunity to sickness and disease. Most adults and children need at least eight hours of sleep to feel well rested in the morning. 

However, those eight hours are often difficult to really accomplish. One reason for this may be our overuse of technology.

People today are on their electronics more than ever, whether it be for work, school, or entertainment. When we come home from work or school we might turn on the television or check our cell phone. Although using technology is a necessary trait of living in the modern world, doing so at bedtime can cause problems. 

According to a poll from the National Sleep Foundation, nearly 95 percent of Americans use electronic devices in the hour before bed. Almost 75 percent of children and over 70 percent of adults use their phones in their bed. The statistics of people bringing their phones to bed is especially prevalent in those between ages 13 and 29. 

However, if we do not limit our screen time before bedtime, it may end up harming our sleep.

Many people find it very difficult to be away from their cell phones or other electronic devices at night. Without it, they may feel alone and helpless. This contributes immensely to why people stay up so late on devices, to feel a sense of security. This temporary fix only negatively impacts both your sleep and your mental state. 

Others simply use their phones as a method of relaxation after a long day. Many people find that scrolling through TikTok videos or playing mindless games is relaxing.

However, science does not agree.

Doctor Joanna Cooper, M.D., a neurologist and sleep medicine specialist with the Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation, explained that screens stimulate the part of the brain to keep us awake. 

“The timing of sleep and wakefulness is controlled by two areas in the brain. One is highly sensitive to light and drives wakefulness, while the other, called the pineal gland, secretes the sleep hormone melatonin when the light dims in the evening,” Dr. Cooper said

Electronic devices emit blue light which blocks this sleep hormone from being released, causing you not only to want to stay awake longer, but also making it harder to sleep when you turn off the electronics.

Some solutions to getting better sleep are to turn your cell phone or screen off at least an hour before bedtime. 

There are many things you can do instead of being on a device before you go to bed, and still wind down and relax. Try things like taking a hot bath or reading a book. Calming activities such as these allow your brain to release the melatonin needed to fall asleep. This will allow your brain to automatically wind down and prepare you for a good night’s rest.