Sleep is the foundation of every wellness journey. Walking up refreshed isn’t always easy, but it helps every other part of the day. I want everyone to be able to work towards their own wellness journey in whatever way works best for them. Everyone’s journey is different, but there’s no wrong way to do it.
I want to help show the importance of staying focused on your own mental and physical well-being. With my background in medicine and fitness, I want to promote steps towards a healthier world, whether that be with my supplements or through bettering your own routine.
In this article, I will be discussing how screen time before bed will lower your quality of sleep, focusing on these topics:
- The sleep process
- How screens affect your sleep
- How to better your night’s sleep
How do We Get to Sleep?
We spend roughly one-third of our life asleep, and yet, it remains a big mystery. Some people have the superpower to fall asleep almost instantly when their head hits the pillow, while others lay awake for hours. There are a few things that we do know about sleep, and they are important to keep in mind when figuring out the best way for you to get better sleep at night.
We go through two basic kinds of sleep — rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep, which is divided into three stages. Our body goes through the stages multiple times at night, but the exact time that you spend in each stage is dependent on a lot of different factors. REM sleep is deep sleep and the final of the four stages.
Non-REM sleep is divided into three stages that you progress through during slumber on the way to REM sleep.
- Stage One is when you actually fall asleep. This stage generally only lasts a few minutes, where your muscles relax and twitch (you may remember times when you jerk yourself awake — sometimes your muscular twitches are enough to bring you out of stage one). During stage one, all of your body’s functions begin to slow down.
- Stage Two is a stage of light sleep where your body gets ready for the deeper sleep of the remaining two stages. Your body’s processes continue to slow. Interestingly, you spend more time in stage two during repeated cycles of sleep.
- Stage Three is the first stage of serious deep sleep. This stage is important, and it greatly affects how refreshed you feel during the morning. During this stage it is the hardest to rouse someone from slumber — think of times you’ve had to shake someone awake rather than just say their name.
REM sleep is the sleep where you are most likely to dream. During REM sleep, your body’s functions rise to levels approaching wakefulness, and your body becomes paralyzed so you do not act out your dreams. A mixture of REM sleep and non-REM sleep is likely important to consolidate your memories during the night.
One of the reasons that long continuous sleep is important is to let your body cycle through all of this multiple times, which takes around two hours. There are a lot of important processes that only occur during these cycles, where shorter (under four hours) sleep does not give your body time to rest and recuperate.
Circadian Rhythm and Sleep-Wake Homeostasis
These two biological mechanisms work together to ensure that you are awake during the day and tired during the night. It is, well, not that simple, but your circadian rhythm is in charge of a lot of cyclical bodily functions. It helps you feel changes in temperature, hunger, and how tired you feel. The circadian rhythm is based around a 24-hour day, letting us settle into routines of feeling tired at a similar time each night and being able to wake up when our alarm goes off.
Your sleep-wake homeostasis functions similarly but is exclusively focused on sleep. It, in essence, reminds your body that it’s time to sleep just like your metabolism reminds you when you are hungry. The longer you go without sleeping, the stronger the drive to sleep. The mixture of these two processes is the reason we feel so jet lagged, as well as why it is challenging to drastically change our sleep schedule at any time.
When heading to another time zone, your body’s circadian rhythm is thrown off because the cues it expects do not happen when it expects them to. There are a myriad of benefits from getting a good night’s sleep.
Stop Scrolling — Limiting Screen Time Before Bed Leads to Better Sleep
After your bedtime routine, it is very common to open up your phone for one last look at social media or to respond to texts and emails. Don’t do that! You will sleep better if you take 30 or so minutes before bed to unwind without your phone in hand. Our brain takes in information all day long — why stop at bedtime, right? This habit becomes problematic when a few minutes turn into 15, 30, or even longer. Not only does it keep you up when you are using your phone, but what you look at could make it much harder for you to get to sleep.
The Light Tricks Your Mind
We are all programmed to feel tired as light leaves our view. As night falls, we get sleepy, but that direct light from your phone can interfere with natural melatonin creation (a compound that helps you sleep) and keep you up. During your nighttime routine, try to keep the lights soft and low. On the flip side, if you need to stay or wake up, harsh bright light increases wakefulness.
Your Phone Wants to Keep Your Attention
More specifically — a lot of apps work very hard to keep you engaged even after you put them down. You might find an email or social media post that sets your mind in high gear at the worst time. That can keep you on your phone for longer or make it harder for you to fall asleep after you put your phone down.
If you can get into a habit of limiting your screen time for the last half-hour or so of your night, your sleep will improve. There are a lot of factors that go into how well you sleep at night, certainly more than whether or not you keep your phone handy. If this problem persists, we recommend seeing a professional about your sleep. There are a lot of ways they can help you get good sleep.
Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep
A night filled with only fitful sleep is bad all around. It makes you feel tired and sluggish the next day. Being awake in bed, doing nothing but staring at the ceiling, is terrible. It happens. Only those with amazing luck can get to bed right away every night. So, for those of us who find ourselves struggling to get to sleep when we get in bed, here are a few tips to get the odds on our side when it comes to sound sleep.
The Do’s and Don’ts During the Day
Spending your whole day preparing for nighttime sleep is, of course, unrealistic. We all have things to do! That being said, there are a few things to keep in mind that help prepare you for getting good sleep when you want to.
- Don’t nap a lot. Naps are a great way to get a bit of rejuvenation during the day, but excessive napping (over one hour) can disrupt your sleep during the night. Alongside that, try to avoid napping in the evening, even if it is only a power nap.
- Do exercise. Spending time outside and exercising are great ways to promote better sleep. Being active does a lot for your body, and helping you get to sleep is one of those things. Physical activity does not have to be big workouts — walking a mile every day can create a noticeable impact on your sleep.
- Don’t eat a lot before bed. Having a big meal right before bed makes it harder to find sleep. The discomfort of having eaten a lot can keep you awake, and disrupt your sleep in the middle of the night. Try to eat dinner at least two hours before going to bed, and if you are eating later than that, try to limit the amount you consume.
- Do create a sleep schedule. It is helpful to go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time each day. There are a lot of outside factors that make this not sustainable, which is okay. However, if you are able to set a consistent sleep-wake schedule it reinforces those times for your body, making it easier to transition to sleeping and then to waking at those same times.
Crafting a Nighttime Routine
Humans are not good at going straight from being awake to sleeping. Under normal circumstances, giving your body and your brain time to unwind and get ready for sleep is a great way to get to sleep when you want to. There are a lot of ways to create a nighttime routine, and it all revolves around what works best for you. If something doesn’t work there is nothing wrong with taking it out of your routine as long as you keep trying to find something that does work.
If you can, create a space that is calm and relaxing. This is, well, your bedroom. Deck out your bedroom and create a space that’s perfect for lulling you to sleep. This means low lighting, fans, and other accouterments that help you get to sleep. These could be stuffed animals, decorations, and anything, really! More than that, try to maintain this space as the place you sleep. This helps your body know that when you get in bed it’s time to sleep, not time to spend an hour on your phone.
Embark upon a relaxing journey for 20-40 minutes before bed. Firing on all cylinders playing video games, watching a movie, or working right up to the time you want to sleep makes it hard to shut your mind down. Thoughts will race back and forth, taking you on a journey through your consciousness when all you want to do is fall asleep. Find activities that let your mind slow down. These can be stretches, reading, journaling, or anything that you know relaxes you. Don’t go back for those screens!
Lying Awake at Night?
My last piece of advice is this — as hard as it is, if you are lying awake in bed for a long time, say, thirty minutes, get up and go back to what you were doing before you went to sleep. Be extra cautious not to scroll through your phone or put a video on, because that will wake you up more. Read until your eyes are begging to close and then try to fall asleep. If you are in bed for over half an hour, there’s no telling how long it will be before you fall asleep. Getting out of bed lets you reset the clock, so to speak, and hopefully, after fifteen or so minutes you can get in bed again and fall asleep!
I hope this helps you fall asleep at night! This is certainly not the only way to improve your quality of sleep, but I hope this helps you figure out what works best for you.