It’s safe to say that while we have spent more time than ever at home, we have also spent more time in front of our screens. This, coupled with the anxieties brought about by the pandemic, has affected us in several areas – most especially with the quality of our sleep.
While this is somewhat unavoidable, it is necessary to note just how much this can affect you. Below are some ways your sleep is compromised by excessive screen time, and some tips for overcoming this.
Dr. Rashmi Byakodi, Health and Wellness Writer and Editor of Best For Nutrition:
Blue light is natural light with a shorter wavelength and high energy. Artificial light sources such as digital devices and fluorescent bulbs produce this blue light. These devices produce concentrated blue light, which might be disruptive to your sleep.
Evidence suggests that blue light affects your circadian rhythm by affecting the secretion of melatonin. In simple words, melatonin is needed for restful sleep, and blue light suppresses the release of this essential sleep hormone.
The best solution to this problem is avoiding digital devices two hours before sleep time. A simple act of reducing screen brightness and wearing protective eyewear can make you less exposed to blue light. Changing your bedroom lights to warm lights can also help you sleep better.
Vanessa Osorio, Sleep Health Content Specialist at Sleepopolis:
Our bodies operate on a 24-hour internal biological clock known as the circadian rhythm. This clock uses cues from the environment, like the sun, to tell night from day. When it is light out, our brain understands that it is daytime and we remain awake and alert. As nighttime falls, our brains know it’s getting dark and we will be going to sleep soon, so it will begin to produce melatonin.
It will produce this hormone that causes sleepiness about 30 minutes before bedtime. The problem with using electronics that emit blue light all the time, is that our brains think it is daytime and our circadian rhythm is thrown off with the delayed production of melatonin.
Martin Seeley, Chief Executive Officer at MattressNextDay:
Most of us during this COVID-19 pandemic are spending a lot of time in front of our computer screens and smartphones. This has been the new normal for any employee, and it has a hidden effect on our body including the quality of our sleep. Personally speaking, we might not notice but excessive screen time can really affect our quality of sleep and it also delays sleepiness. This is because of the blue light that our screens emit which causes our body to feel not sleepy and results in less sleep or low quality of sleep.
Campbell Will, Physical Therapist, Wim Hof Method & Breathwork Instructor, and an Enthusiast for Wellness Through Nature at Breath Body Therapy:
The human nervous system is very finely tuned to light. In fact, the eyes are an extension of the brain that regulate levels of alertness based on light. With the advent of artificial lighting we have slowly begun to confuse our nervous system about the time of day and time of year. Humans, and all animals, evolved with light. Morning sunlight triggers a cascade of events in the brain and body that prepare us for the day ahead. When the sun sets, the lack of light begins a suppression of the same systems, preparing us to sleep. We evolved with this cycle.
Exposure to the light emitted by screens interrupts this cycle. The light emitted by modern devices is of a wavelength similar to the rising sun – signalling our body to wake up. Problems begin to arise with prolonged exposure to blue light especially into the evening as we send mixed signals to the nervous system. As our body prepares to go to sleep, screen time can continue to ‘wake up’ the brain creating a disconnect between mind and body. For so many, laying down to sleep at night is met with an active mind, jumping between to-do lists and plans, as the mind is in action mode. Sleep may come, but of a lower quality as light has stimulated the brain, essentially ‘waking up’ the system as we prepare for rest.
It is important that we implement healthy light habits. Exposing our eyes to early morning sunlight prepares the brain and body for the day ahead, and viewing the changing of light at sunset or dusk also signals the brain and body to shift into recovery. Minimizing screen time after sunset or utilizing technology that helps block blue light will assist the body in finding it’s natural rhythms in tune with nature.
With all the above evidence, it is clear that we have to learn how to ‘switch off’ before we go to bed. Try to leave your devices outside of your bedroom as you get ready to sleep, to avoid the temptation of using them. While this may be difficult because your devices may have become an extension of yourself, you will immediately see the difference that this makes when you get a good night’s rest.