Checking email or flipping through channels instead of sleeping? Playing video games or browsing social media in bed? If you want to catch some quality ZZZs, you should put down that smartphone.
The National Sleep Foundation reports nearly 90 percent of adults sleep with at least one electronic device in their bedroom. However, staring at a screen after 9 p.m. can zap your body of energy, turning you into a zombie the next day. To get a good night’s rest, consider shutting off all electronics before climbing into bed.
How Electronics Affect Your Sleep
Your body functions on a 24-hour internal clock. This clock is influenced by your physical environment and daily schedule. Using electronic devices around bedtime can throw off your body clock and negatively affect your quality of sleep.
Light and darkness affect your body clock. Staring at the blue glow of electronic devices – computers, tablets, televisions, gaming systems and/or smartphones – before bedtime can trick your body into thinking it’s still daytime. The artificial light sends messages to the brain to wake up and activates the body. This, in turn, can reset your body clock, delaying your normal sleep cycle.
Studies show that staring at bright screens within four hours of bedtime reduces melatonin, a hormone that makes you naturally tired when it’s time to sleep. This can cause difficulty when trying to fall asleep, poor quality of sleep or sleep disorders, such as insomnia.
In the long run, problems sleeping at night can impact you during the day. Lack of proper sleep can lead to impaired focus at work, trouble remembering, fatigue, stress and even weight gain.
Get Off the Grid
It is important to get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. To get a better night’s sleep, experts recommend:
- Spending at least 30 minutes technology-free before you climb into bed.
- Reading a book or magazine in bed instead of using an electronic device.
- Making the bedroom a technology-free zone (i.e., no smartphones, tablets, laptops, TV, etc.).
- Using your bed for sleep only – this habit will create a connection in your mind between your bed and sleep.
- Putting caps over electrical outlets in the bedroom to discourage plugging in electronics to recharge.
If your smartphone is your alarm clock, set your phone to sleep mode (do not disturb function) so all calls and texts will be silenced unless it’s an emergency. Be sure to put your phone face down on the nightstand so incoming messages don’t wake you up.
Power down tonight and don’t let your technology keep you from a good night’s rest.
Find more resources to help you get a better night’s rest from Guard Your Health, a health education campaign by the Army National Guard, at guardyourhealth.com.
Night Time Stimulants to Avoid
While using electronic devices is one night time distraction, here are some other common things to avoid to get a good night’s rest:
- Animals: Do not let your pets snuggle with you at night as they typically function on a different cycle than humans.
- Alcohol: While it initially makes you drowsy, alcohol leaving the bloodstream wakes the body, interrupting your sleep cycle.
- Vitamins and supplements: Like alcohol, taking a vitamin or supplement too close to bedtime can wake you up later – even if they knock you out initially.
- Caffeine and sugar: Drinking coffee, soda or other sugary beverages should be avoided within four hours of bedtime, otherwise you may be too wired to sleep.