In our world of 24/7 communication and entertainment, where smart phones and tablets are forever refreshing our news feeds, it can be hard to power down at the end of a day. But the devices that keep us connected may also be the ones that keep us awake. There’s so much to see, learn, and like in our virtual spaces that five minutes quickly turns into 10, turns into 60, pushing back bedtime further and further. Once we do drift off, our brains are still abuzz with information and stimulation.
Read on to learn why a tech timeout may be the best thing you can do to improve the quality of your sleep. Plus, pick up a few tips for curbing those late night tech sessions.
Melatonin is the chemical our brains produce when it’s time to go to sleep. Melatonin gets released when it’s dark, which is why we get tired when the sun goes down and perk up when it rises.
The problem with peering into a phone before bed is that our brains mistake the bright light for sun, interrupting the flow of melatonin and making it harder to fall asleep. If you like to read on a tablet before bed, go old school and sub it out for a hardback.
Bed Time Bump
We’ve all spent way longer than we meant to scrolling through Facebook, pinning interior design ideas or liking friends’ photos on Instagram. The danger of mindless scrolling right before bed is that we’re at our most relaxed, which tends to increase our zone-out time. There isn’t a next task to accomplish, so it’s easy to trick yourself into thinking you have a ton of free time. In reality, the most important task of the day is ahead: sleep!
We absorb so much information through ours phone, even during a short browsing session, that it’s almost impossible for our brains to turn off right away. Images, ideas, annoyances or even compliments can keep your mind racing for hours after you’ve powered down.
Research shows stressful activities like responding to email or finishing a work assignment can actually cause your body to enter fight or flight mode and release the stress hormone cortisol—not the best way to start a sleep session.
Get Work Out of the Way
One way to prevent yourself from checking email or finishing an assignment right before bed is to do it earlier in the evening. Set aside a half hour before or after dinner to tie up loose ends and respond to any last-minute messages. If your exercise of choice is the treadmill, considering using a few minutes of your warm-up to check in on email.
Like any mildly addicting activity, phone and tablet use is hard to quit cold turkey. If you tend to spend time with your phone in the half hour before you fall asleep, try reducing your use by a few minutes each night until you’re not reaching for it all anymore.
Or take this tip from Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief at Huffington Post, and leave your phone in another room overnight to charge. The physical distance will help you disconnect from work and social ties plus keep your eyes away from its melatonin-interrupting light.
If you can’t bring yourself to leave the phone in another room while you sleep, at least silence any message alerts (text, email, push notifications) so their chirps won’t interrupt your sleep.