5 Reasons You Should Go “Screen-Free” Before Bed
Browsing on your cell phone in bed before going to sleep may negatively affect your health. Many health care specialists and scientists agree that blocking off at least 1 hour of screen-free time without phones, tablets, and laptops before going to bed is a wise choice for good sleep. Plenty of Americans have already gone further and regularly have screen-free days or weeks. During these periods, all family members, including parents and children, stop using any gadgets and instead spend quality time together.
Health risks of using a phone or laptop in bed before sleeping
Using bedroom gadgets before going to sleep can be not just time-wasting, but also potentially dangerous for your health. According to recent statistics, an average American adult spends about 11 hours daily checking digital media, playing mobile or video games, watching TV, and doing other activities involving the use of smartphones, tablets or TV sets.
The U.S. Vision Council reports that the overconsumption of digital media and technology is responsible for eye-strain disorders in 70% of Americans.
In addition, the National Sleep Foundation insists that almost 95% of all Americans who use a laptop or phone in bed have mild-to-severe sleep disorders including insomnia, memory loss, and disturbed sleep patterns.
Another study published by the research team at the U.K. University of Salford found a connection between low self-esteem and social networks. They called this negative connection Social Media Anxiety Disorder.
The New York Times also published an interesting article related to this problem. According to their research, the overconsumption of technologies may “re-wire” a human brain and cause a powerful addiction, like addictions with alcohol and drugs.
Dr. Dan Siegel in his interview with Business Insider said that Americans should be afraid of the drastic changes in a brain provided by cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Cell phone radiation may be a myth but the overconsumption of gadgets before sleeping can cause the following science-backed side effects to your health:
Using a phone before sleep may tell your brain to stay awake
When you are staring at your iPhone or iPad in bed, the photons of “blue light” that beam into your eyes may send the wrong signals to your brain “telling” it to stay awake. That is the reason why you can’t fall asleep even when you feel tired. Your brain is confused by the light given off by gadgets, which mimics the blue light of day, and it doesn’t understand that it is the time to sleep.
Your body may not have enough time to clear toxins
When you watch an iPhone in bed, time flies. As a result, you may choose to sleep less than 7-9 hours before waking up for a work. Dr. Siegel explained that when your brain rests, cells called glial cells flush out the toxins from it. Sleep deprivation interrupts this process, and can make you feel tired and sleepy in the morning.
You may have attention and memory problems
Going to sleep with a phone may be also bad for your memory and attention. A lack of sleep can cause temporary or chronic problems with attention, concentration, and memory. If you can’t focus or remember important facts, you may experience decreased effectiveness at work and increased anxiety throughout the day.
You may become slower and “dumber”
Dr. Siegel explains that your ability to think logically, come up with new ideas, and solve even simple problems may be reduced due to chronic sleep deprivation caused by excessive use of bedroom gadgets at night.
You may gain weight
One of the major reasons of gaining weight is a lack of sleep that may disturb the natural metabolic processes. Using an iPhone in bed can actually cause problems with weight. A 2013 study described in the New York Times claimed that a sleepy brain is less capable of resisting eating junk food. Besides, when you are sleepy, you tend to move slower and less than normal.
What can you do before bed instead of using gadgets?
However, all these possible health risks can be prevented with your willpower. All you need to do is to say “no” to gadgets in bed before going to sleep. Instead of browsing an iPhone or iPad, you can do these activities during your screen-free time:
Read a paper book
Have you recently bought a nice tablet holder for bed? Use it for a paper book instead. eBook readers may seem more comfortable for reading but their screens may disrupt your sleep, too. A paper book can be a solution to this problem. In fact, many people claim that reading physical books helps them fall asleep even if they have insomnia.
Talk with your family members or friends
Using a phone can be allowed if you want to speak directly with your friends or family members. But, instead of chatting or texting, try calling. A soothing talking “about nothing” with people who you care about can work better than a lullaby.
Go for a walk
Get some exercise before bed, especially if you have spent all day sitting in an office. Just walk a few blocks near your house or visit the nearest supermarket to buy foods. Any quiet short walk can be better than staring mindlessly at your phone’s screen.
Listen to relaxing music
Listening to your favorite music before going to sleep is another reason to leave a phone turned on. You may consider using headphones to sleep in your cozy bed faster. Choose relaxing tunes that make you feel calm and peaceful.
Yoga may help sleep faster
Doing some yoga or simple stretching before bed can relax your body muscles and reduce stress. If necessary, use relaxing meditation techniques and listen to some yoga chants. Any method is good if it makes you feel less stressed and helps you fall asleep naturally.
Taking only a few minutes of your time, breathing exercises may provide a huge positive impact on your health. Consider taking a few deep breaths in and slow breaths out to let your body relax.
If it is challenging for you to spend a whole hour without a tablet or phone, start by turning them off at least 20-30 minutes before going to sleep. Slowly increase the screen-free time day after day and enjoy better and longer sleep.