Skip to Content

Why You Should Reduce Your Screen Time Before Bed (And 4 Easy Ways To Do It)

Reducing your screen time before bed is likely the #1 thing you can do to improve your sleep quality immediately.

This article informs you WHY reducing screen time before bed is important, and easy ways to do so.

(Unfortunately, just telling people to reduce their screen time isn’t enough. We all know how addictive screens can be, so these ways should help break that addiction.)

Ready… Set… Go!

How screen time before bed wrecks your sleep

Pretty much every modern electronic device (Smartphones, iPads, Laptops, etc.) emit a Blue spectrum of light that’s commonly known as… Yep you guessed it – Blue light.

This artificial Blue light produced by electronic screens triggers your body to produce higher levels of Cortisol, which we know by now disrupts the body’s sleeping patterns.

(We dive deeper into the effects high Cortisol levels have on sleep in our Holy Basil and Phosphatidylserine articles, so these are recommended reading for those wanting more information.)

But don’t just take my word for it; studies show this to be true too:

The use of light-emitting electronic devices – tablets, some e-readers, smart phones, and laptops – in the hours before bedtime can negatively impact overall health, alertness, and the circadian clock, which synchronizes the daily rhythm of sleep to external environmental cues.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital Researchers

In the study, late night iPad readers felt less sleepy at night, took longer to fall asleep, and had shorter REM (Rapid eye movement) sleep compared to others who were assigned to read books.

The iPad readers also secreted less melatonin, which has a huge impact on sleep quality.

But what really stood out to me was that they were more tired than the book readers the following day, even if they both slept for a full 8 hours.

This really tells us that the quality of sleep is just as important as the quantity.

Why Blue light increases Cortisol and lowers Melatonin

So now you’re probably asking:

“Ok, but WHY does Blue light increase Cortisol?”

Which is a great question.

First things first, our Cortisol and Melatonin levels rise and fall in a Circadian rhythm; our Cortisol levels are naturally higher in the morning (which makes us wake up) and lower at night.

On the other hand, Melatonin levels are lower in the morning and higher at night (helping us fall asleep).

This is because Blue light levels are the “cue” for the body’s internal clock:

When it’s dark (i.e. less Blue light exposure), our bodies produce more melatonin which makes us sleepy.

When it’s light (i.e. more Blue light exposure), our bodies produce more Cortisol which makes us more alert.

From an evolutionary perspective, this is what stops us from being nocturnal.

Now we know why Blue light increases Cortisol, it’s easy to see why Blue light exposure at night time is terrible for sleep quality – it’s tricking our internal clock into believing it’s daytime, making it harder to fall asleep.

4 easy ways to reduce your screen time at night

4. The Hour Rule

Make it a rule to turn off all electronic screens at least 60 minutes before bedtime, if you want to give your body the deep sleep it deserves. I’ve found the earlier you turn off your screen, the better this works.

3. Change your late night pastime

Remember the days before Facebook and Twitter when people used to… you know… talk to each other face to face? Believe it or not, you can actually still do this in 2020!

Here are a few other suggestions to get the brain juices flowing:

  • Read a book
  • Go to the gym
  • Prep your meals for the next few days

2. Turn off the cues  

One of the most important things you can do to prevent or stop a dopamine loop, and be more productive (and get better sleep!), is to turn off the cues. Adjust the settings on your cell phone and on your laptop, desktop or tablet so that you don’t receive the automatic notifications. Automatic notifications are touted as wonderful features of hardware, software and apps. But they are actually causing you to be like a rat in a cage.

Susan Weinschenk, PhD (Behaviour Psychologist)

I can’t emphasize this one enough if you want to take back control of your brain.

I personally have all my notifications switched off (visual and auditory) as well as a Greyscale filter on my phone.

The world ain’t as pretty in Greyscale mode…

The Greyscale filter is super effective as it makes it “ugly” to binge on social media, since you’re missing out on the big Dopamine hit from the many vibrant colours that our modern devices display.

1. Use a Blue Light Filter on your devices

Look I get it…

Some of you need to be on your devices later than you want.

(Finishing off an assignment the night before it’s due comes to mind…)

Rest assured; modern technology has provided software capable of blocking out Blue light from devices.

For example, I have an invaluable tool called Iris on my laptop.

It’s a great piece of software that’s helped many people lower their blue light exposure, despite living in the current digital era where it can be difficult to escape screen time.

(To read my original, in-depth review of Iris, click here.)

Conclusion

By now, hopefully you’re aware that using electronic screens before bed is terrible for sleep.

The ideal solution is to avoid screen time exposure at least an hour before bed, but for those who may have no choice but to use screens late at night, Blue light filtering software like Iris can make a world of difference.

We strongly believe the information in this article can make a huge, huge difference to your sleep IF you apply it.

Yes, even before you consider supplements to aid your sleep, you should apply the methods in this article for at least 2 weeks.

This should be long enough to test whether they work for you.

(As we’re all unique, some methods may help you whilst some may not – the only way to find out is to try it for yourself!)

If they do improve your sleep? Then great – our objective of this article is complete.

If not, you may want to experiment with different supplements which are proven to help with sleep.

(Our favorites are Holy Basil and Phosphatidylserine.)

Well guys and gals, I hope you enjoyed today’s article.

Please let us know if you notice a difference in sleep quality when applying the information in this article.

Over and out.

Sources

BWH (Using Light-Emitting Devices Before Bed May Impact Sleep)
https://give.brighamandwomens.org/light-emitting-devices-sleep/

PubMed (The Effects of Blue Light on Cortisol Levels)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2905913/