man using mobile device while lying in bed

3 Ways Screen Time is Impairing Your Sleep

Learn how less technology at bedtime can lead to better rest

Experiencing good sleep is one of the most important aspects of a person’s health and wellbeing. While today’s technology devices help to make our lives easier, cell phones, tablets and even televisions can be problematic at bedtime. If you’re struggling to get good, restorative sleep, your screen time habits could be the culprit.

1. Screens emit stimulating blue light

“While technology offers benefits to our lives, when it comes to sleep, it can be disruptive,” explained Steven Rasmussen, MD, family medicine practitioner at ThedaCare Physicians-Ripon. “The blue light emitted by cell phones, tablets and even our televisions stimulates the hypothalamus gland and tells your body and brain that it’s not nighttime.”

This type of stimulation can disrupt your Circadian rhythm, which is your normal sleep cycle, and melatonin production, which helps your body and brain prepare for sleep. For this reason, it is recommended that anyone experiencing sleep disruptions – having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up at night – avoid being on any technology device for an hour before bedtime.

2. Social media can be anxiety provoking

If you’re looking to relax, social media is probably not your best bet.

“Frequently, spending time on social media can lead to increased angst, anxiety and general discomfort,” said Dr. Rasmussen. “So that’s one of the last things people should be doing before going to bed.”

In some cases, people experience an addiction to their phones, scrolling through email or social media sites before going to bed and first thing in the morning. Such habits can lead to an unhealthy level of stress, preventing you from maintaining good sleep hygiene and overall health.

3. Having technology nearby makes it impossible to truly disconnect

To help avoid the habit of scrolling a newsfeed prior to bedtime or first thing in the morning, it is best to not sleep with your phone or tablet in your bedroom.

“Charge it overnight in the kitchen, living room or your office where you won’t hear the beep of an incoming email or text,” said Dr. Rasmussen. “Don’t use your phone as your alarm. Instead invest in one of those novel things called an alarm clock. Then your phone doesn’t need to be near your bed.”

Rethink bedtime

Getting sufficient rest starts by allowing our body to power down to a relaxed state. That doesn’t happen when we are on our devices, looking at social media sites or watching TV before bedtime.

“Anything that gets you emotionally charged shouldn’t be done for at least an hour before bedtime,” said Dr. Rasmussen. “Stay off your screens and do something more calming.”

In addition to avoiding technology, Dr. Rasmussen recommends going to bed and getting up at approximately the same time every day to help the mind and body adjust to a pattern that will foster good sleep. He also suggested avoiding caffeine later in the day and considering your bed a sanctuary.

“People should not be watching TV, checking their phone or even reading in bed,” he said. “All those things can be disruptive to sleep. Your bed should serve only two purposes – sleep and intimacy.”