Is Screen-time Sabotaging your Sleep?
November 1, 2021 | Cara Boyd
Good, quality sleep is non-negotiable when it comes to health. Even mild sleep deprivation has been associated with poorer performance, worsened mental health, and increased risk of adverse health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Despite this, it’s something that many of us do not have anywhere near the top of our priority lists.
On a positive note, sleep is one of the most powerful, modifiable tools we have access to and oftentimes, it can be improved at zero cost. Your sleep/wake cycles, or circadian rhythm, is controlled largely by the hormones melatonin and cortisol (which you may also recognize as your stress hormone). In a perfect world, cortisol should be spiked in the morning when melatonin is at its lowest which tells your body that it’s time to wake up. These hormones invert as nighttime approaches with rising melatonin levels driving sleepiness. In reality, this optimal pattern isn’t always the case. These hormones can be influenced by external factors, a significant one being light exposure!
Historically speaking, before artificial light existed, our sleep cycles followed the patterns of sunrise and sunset more closely. Then came artificial light and things became a little more complicated. Melatonin levels are very sensitive to light, in particular, blue light. Light from the sun is more of a broad spectrum of colours compared to artificial light, which tends to be more biased towards blue light. This means viewing artificial light later in the day can have a negative impact on your sleep.
Ideally, you should try to reduce your artificial light exposure as bedtime approaches. If your bedtime routine includes scrolling on social media or binging Netflix, you may want to rethink it! Even 30 – 60 minutes screen-free before bed can make a significant difference for your sleep. It’s also helpful to turn off your overhead lights to either a low-light lamp or, even better, candlelight as sunset approaches. Blue light blocking glasses and colour filters for your devices are also worth considering.
Once you are in bed, you also want to minimize light. If you can see your hands in front of your face in bed, your room might have too much light and could be interfering with your sleep! Try a sleep mask or blackout curtains to help optimize your sleep environment.
In the morning, light now becomes your friend. Getting natural light in your eyes immediately after waking, is one of the best things you can do to help stimulate wakefulness. The more you work with your body, the more it will work with you!
To summarize, here are 6 ways you can work with light to optimize your sleep:
Dim light, or work from a lamp or candlelight as sunset approaches
Avoid screen time, ideally once the sun goes down, but 30 – 60 mins before bed is a great starting point
Consider using blue light blocking glasses or blue light filters on your devices if using them in the evening
Use a sleep mask or blackout curtains to ensure your room is as dark as possible
If you wake up in the middle of the night, avoid turning on lights or looking at your phone
Consider a morning walk first thing in the morning to stimulate wakefulness with natural light.
If you are suffering from poor sleep, click here to book an appointment with one of our Naturopathic Doctors.