It is often repeated that it’s a bad idea to use screens before bed, but have you ever wondered why that is? Using screens before bed can make it harder for you to fall asleep, and there’s more to that than just “stimulation” from watching videos or reading flame wars on your favorite forum.
Gadgets such as laptops, computers, tablets, and smartphones emit blue light, which tricks the brain into thinking that it’s still daytime. This can impair your ability to sleep and means that if you do sleep then it will be poorer quality than the sleep you would get if you dozed off naturally. The blue light delays the release of melatonin, and ‘resets your body clock’. This, effectively, gives you get lag even though you haven’t flown to another country!
Normally, the pineal gland in your body will release melatonin in the hours before you go to bed. Blue light from your computer makes your body put off releasing that melatonin. The good news is that this is a short term thing. All you have to do to stop suffering from computer-induced jet lag is stop using your devices about two hours before bedtime. Instead of playing on your laptop or reading on your tablet PC, shut those devices down and read a magazine or book instead. If you must read using a gadget, try a Kindle Paperwhite, because those do not emit the same blue light.
There’s an App for That!
These days, there’s an app for everything, and that includes the light issue. There are apps that will keep track of the time of day and that will change your screen so that it emits less of the blue light, and more yellow, instead. This should, in theory, help you to be more alert in the mornings, and help you doze off at night.
How well these apps work is not really clear, and if you’re a graphic designer you might want to avoid them because they will throw off the colors on the screen. They may be worth trying if all you want to do is read or edit text documents, however. There are free apps which you can use, and you can tweak the settings so that the change in color is barely noticeable.
Screen time is just one thing that can interfere with your ability to sleep. There are other issues too. If you’re struggling to sleep even after limiting your screen time then stop to think about your other habits. Are you consuming coffee or alcohol before bed?
Are you eating a heavy meal not long before bed? What temperature is your bedroom and do you have issues with noise pollution? All of these things are worth looking into. Good sleep hygiene is something that may take a while to figure out but it is worth working on because you will feel so much better when you are getting the right amount of sleep every night. Even if you feel ‘OK’ now, you may not realize what you have been missing out on.