Excess screen time can hamper sleep in a number of ways: ... Light emissions – particularly blue wavelength light from LED-based devices (phones, tablets, computers) can disrupt the body's natural occurring circadian rhythm, increasing alertness and suppressing the release of the hormone melatonin, which is important for regulating our sleep-wake cycle.
A study by researchers at Harvard Medical School found that compared to reading a paper book, people who read from an e-book needed an additional 10 minutes to fall asleep. They experienced 90 minutes of delayed melatonin onset — and had half the amount of melatonin released. To compound these effects, anxious people have more cortisol in their system, which further stymies sleep. Anxious people also tend to have shorter attention spans and are more likely to switch tasks every 3-5 minutes. This frenetic task switching increases stress — and cortisol — creating a vicious cycle.
Finally, anxious people are more likely to sleep with their phone close by and check it when they awaken at night, which then further disrupts sleep.
So how do you reduce your nighttime anxiety and permit your brain to sleep effectively? Here are some suggestions
The National Sleep Foundation recommends turning off all devices an hour prior to bedtime. The Mayo Clinic says that if you do choose to use technology during the hour before bedtime, keep it 14 inches from your face and dim the brightness, which helps reduce the blue light and increases the natural melatonin release.
During the day, practice not reacting to incoming alerts or notifications like one of Pavlov’s dogs. In fact, turn off notifications and check on a schedule to retrain your brain’s neurotransmitters (particularly cortisol).
Put all devices away in another room rather than keep them in the bedroom to discourage you from checking them during the night.
An hour before bedtime, start dimming the room lights slowly to release melatonin.
Our devices are a gift that connect us to so many people and so much information, but they do not have to raise our anxiety and harm our all-important sleep.