Electronics are simply a part of the average adult's daily life in the 21st century. But if there's one moment that should be screen-free, it's bedtime—or at the very least, the last few minutes before falling asleep. That's according to nearly every study published on the topic, and Terry Cralle, MS, RN, a certified clinical sleep educator.
"The light emitted from phones, laptops, and TVs has been shown to delay sleep by delaying melatonin production," she told THE/THIRTY. And that's not even taking the content itself into account. "TV shows, video games, or certain emails or social media posts can be stressful, resulting in a release of cortisol, which is not at all conducive to sleep."
Considering that sleep is quite literally the foundation of good health, cutting screen time before bed is a good use of your time. Here's how Cralle recommends doing just that, whether you fall asleep to the sound of Netflix or scroll Instagram until you can't keep your eyes open.
Set an "Electronics Alarm"
"Tech is intended to be alerting and stimulating, which is the opposite of what you need at bedtime," Cralle explains. She suggests setting a "sleep alarm" a few hours before bed to remind you to turn off electronics and begin your nighttime routine. "It's important to have a relaxing, soothing, and reproducible bedtime routine that you do every night, in the same order. This will help transition your mind and body from wake to sleep."
Sub Your Tech for a Relaxing Activity
Build your new bedtime routine around something you find relaxing, like thumbing through a magazine, chipping away at a jigsaw puzzle, or reading a non-engaging, non-fiction book. If Netflix is your specific vice, "consider falling asleep to a podcast or audiobook on a timer instead of the TV," she suggests. "You will have the distraction of listening to the content without the light."
Put a Wall Between You & Your Phone
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It's easy to use your iPhone alarm clock as an excuse to sleep with your device within arm's reach. But sleep disorders specialist Harneet Walia, MD, recommends eliminating the temptation entirely and sleeping with your phone in a separate room. Simply invest in an old-school alarm clock to keep on your bedside table.
If You Can't Quit Your Phone, Turn on Night Mode & Reduce Brightness
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On the topic of smartphones in bed, Cralle quotes Mariana Figueiro, Ph.D., a researcher at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who studies the impact of screens on sleep. She maintains that "night mode" is a step in the right direction, but that alone isn't enough. "It's not just about color. The intensity matters, too," she explains. "Color needs to be shifted, and intensity needs to be dropped. These options are better than nothing."
If You Can't Quit TV, Set a Timer & Watch Reruns
If you must watch TV before bed in order to relax and fall asleep, watch something boring and set a sleep timer. "That means no politics, nothing involving gunfire or violence, and no murder mysteries," Cralle notes. "Watch a low-key comedy or a rerun that you've seen a million times, like Friends." Remember that "we still process sounds while we sleep," she adds. "In other words, if you leave the TV on all night, it's disrupting your sleep."
Create a Sleep Sanctuary
Now that you know what to do when it comes to using electronics before bed, it's time to think about your bedroom and bedtime routine in general. There are some products out there that can make it easier for you to get to bed faster and make you feel more comfortable. Take a look at some of our favorites.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.