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How Evening Screen Time Can Sabotage Your Sleep

By Brian Acton

If you spend your evenings in front of a screen - watching television, playing video games, or staring at your phone or tablet - you may be unintentionally sabotaging your sleep. Technology affects sleep in many ways, and screen time can significantly reduce your ability to get a good night’s rest.

The biggest culprit? It’s the blue light emitted by electronics, which can throw off your sleep cycles.

Blue Light Disrupts Your Body’s Sleep Cycles

Before artificial lighting was widespread, the sun was humanity’s main source of illumination. The human body’s internal clock, the circadian rhythm, naturally regulated sleep cycles following the patterns of night and day. The body would begin to release melatonin, which regulates sleeping and waking cycles and helps you feel sleepy, in the evening after sundown.

But exposure to artificial light actually suppresses the secretion of melatonin, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep and get a good night’s rest. Research has shown that the blue light wavelengths emitted by electronic screens are especially disruptive to natural sleep cycles and melatonin secretion.

In short, exposure to blue light can make it take longer for you to fall asleep, reduce the quality of your sleep and make you feel more sluggish in the morning.

How to Avoid the Effects of Blue Light

You don’t need to avoid light during the day, as it can help you stay more alert. But reducing the amount of screen time you get after sundown can help your body better regulate its sleep cycles.

The best way to avoid the harmful effects of blue light is to eliminate it altogether. You should try not to look at bright screens within a few hours of bed - that goes for phones, televisions, tablets, and computer screens. As an alternative, you can read a book, work on a puzzle, clean your home, or do another activity that doesn’t involve screens.  

While it probably isn’t realistic to turn off all artificial lights in the evening, dimming your overhead lights can also help.

If you must have screen time in the evening, there are solutions. There are apps that can reduce the blue light emitted by phones and tablet screens in the evening, and there are even specialty glasses that filter out blue light wavelengths for healthier screen time.

 

Sources

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
https://www.livescience.com/53874-blue-light-sleep.html
https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/what-circadian-rhythm
https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20170619/is-blue-light-bad-for-your-health

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