If you’re one of the 90 percent of people in the United
States who use an electronic device before bedtime, you might not be getting
the quality sleep you need. Many people think scrolling through their social
media feed is relaxing. In reality, it makes it harder to fall asleep.
Electronics and sleep: They don’t go together
Electronic devices like smartphones, laptops and TVs emit an artificial blue light that mimics sunshine. Sunlight signals the body to wake up. Here’s how the blue light streaming from your device stimulates you both physically and mentally, making it more challenging to fall asleep:
Tricks your internal clock
optic nerve in the eye sends light and dark signals to a group of cells in the
brain known as the suprachiasmatic
nucleus (SCN). Those signals tell the body’s internal clock when it’s time to
wake up or go to sleep. When your body clock isn’t set right because of
interference from blue light, the SCN can’t activate normal bodily functions
and regulate hormones.
Slows the body’s release of melatonin
gland is responsible for producing the hormone that regulates sleep called
melatonin. The SCN triggers the pineal gland to produce melatonin as daylight
starts to fade. The hormone is released into the bloodstream starting at around
9 p.m. and continues to rise through the early part of the night. As this
happens, you get sleepier and remain so until daylight prompts the SCN to wake
Activates your brain
movie or responding to emails may feel harmless, but they stimulate your mind
and make it harder to relax and ready yourself for sleep. Your brain needs time
to settle down and unwind to switch into sleep mode.
Blue light inhibits sleep quality
The more you use a
device in the evening, then, the harder it is to fall or stay asleep. Your
bedtime gets delayed, which delays how much restorative sleep you get. This
causes you to feel tired and groggier in the morning, which will affect your
productivity and confuse your internal body clock. It becomes a cycle that is
difficult to break for both kids and adults.
To get the sleep you
need, follow these rules:
Set a digital curfew: As a family, turn off electronic devices. The
National Sleep Foundation recommends turning them off an hour before bedtime.
Keep bedrooms device-free: Avoid bringing electronic devices into the
bedroom. If you use your bedroom only for sleep, entering it when it’s time for
bed becomes a powerful sleep cue for your body.
Read from a lamp: Turn off the overhead lights and use a lamp to see your book.
A printed book is best, but the Kindle Paperwhite is an acceptable alternative
because it doesn’t emit the blue light that phones and tablets do.