Sleep and Screens

One of the surprises I ran into as I researched sleep problems is that screen time–watching TVs, computers, Kindles, Nooks, smartphones, iPads, etc.–lowers your ability to sleep. This was a surprise to me as I have several friends and relatives who use the TV to wind down at the end of the day and get to sleep.

Apparently that is not a good plan for people with sleep issues. While all light will wake you up, those flickering lights from back-lit screens are the worst. They tell your brain that it is daytime, and time to be awake. One study showed that two hours spent looking at a “self-luminous electronic display” will suppress melatonin by 22 percent. Melatonin regulates your sleep cycle, so you need it to get to sleep.

The experts have a few recommendations to avoid this problem. First, limit your total screen time to lower the effect on your melatonin production. Second, take a break from the screens for two hours before you want to fall asleep. That gives your brain some time to realize it is nighttime, and it might be a good idea to get sleepy. Third, if you have to have a screen on right before bed, dim the light to lower its effect on your melatonin levels.

All of this confirms my recent decision to record most of the sleep program I have been working on in audio format. To be honest, I made that decision when I found out just how much it would take me to do everything in video. I realized I just wasn’t up to the task, despite taking on-line trainings and getting myself familiar with a webcam that is highly recommended for exactly the kind of trainings I have in mind.

So I choose to look at my stepping away from the video-format as a positive for my program. I will do just a couple of videos, and do the rest of the training as audios. That way, people can listen to the program right before bed–or even cue up tapping exercises to use when they wake up in the middle of the night–and it won’t keep them awake.

If you have trouble sleeping, take a look at how much time you stare at screens during the day, and especially in the hours before bedtime. Maybe it’s time to read a book instead!

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