The next sleep strategy is all about screens and light. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that screens and sleep don’t go that well together. Now, there’s a couple reasons for this.
First, and probably most important, is that your screens have blue light in them. Blue light is something that inhibits melatonin. And melatonin is that hormone that regulates your sleep cycles and tells your body that it’s time for sleep. For millions of years, blue light has been your body’s way of telling you, “Hey, it’s daytime. It’s time to be up and awake and alert. It’s time to go out hunting and gathering and doing whatever it is you need to do during the day.” So, when you look at your screen in the middle of the night, you’re basically tricking your body into thinking that it’s daytime, thinking that it’s time to be awake. And this can really mess with your sleep cycles.
The other reason that screens can be particularly bad for your sleeping habits is that we typically don’t have a neutral relationship with our screens. We’re looking at email, we’re looking at breaking news, social media, all of the stuff that we consume through our screens can be very triggering or exciting, they can cause stress, worry, anxiety and so it’s hard to fall asleep when we’re ramping up our emotional response, our stress, all of those things.
So, these are the two reasons why looking at your screens at night isn’t going to help you fall asleep. My recommendation is to set a limit for yourself where you stop looking at screens at a certain time in the night. So, for example, you might choose 9pm as the time where you put all your screens away. That can be putting your phone down, closing your laptop, turning off the T.V. and switching over to anything that doesn’t involve screens. So, it’ might be reading a book, it might be doing some dishes in the kitchen, anything where you’re not using your screens on your phone or your laptop.
And if you can’t avoid screens, most screens at least have the option of doing what’s called the night shift. And so, this is where you are shifting the colors coming out of the screen so that there’s no more blue light coming out of them. So, at the very least, switching that over to night shift and you can turn that on automatically so that whenever the sunset happens your screens automatically turn over to the night shift mode.
The flip side to this strategy is that it’s actually very important for your body to get blue light in the morning to signal to your body the appropriate time for wakeup. So, what I generally recommend is getting outside, getting some fresh air and sunlight within 30 minutes of waking up. And this will really help to regulate your circadian clock, regulate your body’s internal rhythm, and give you the signal when it’s morning and when it’s nighttime.
So, a little recap for this strategy is to see if you can avoid screens as much as possible in the night, particularly anything that has blue light coming out of it. And then also, within 30 minutes of waking up, see if you can get outside and get some fresh air and sunlight.