If you’re like virtually any average American, then you spend a good chunk of your day in front of screens.
We use screens to find out the day’s news, to read books, to catch up with friends and to do any number of functions in our day-to-day lives essentially.
As a result, it’s no wonder that creating a completely “dark” atmosphere – sans screens – can be a difficult task.
But what effect is all this screen time having on our sleeping habits? Even when we’re fast asleep – and the screens have been turned off for a few hours – the answers may surprise you.
1. Screens Impact Our Circadian Rhythm
Screens emulate what we call “artificial light.” This light is simply the brightness that is given off by our televisions, cell phones, laptops, etc. and too much exposure to artificial light can wreak havoc on our circadian rhythms.
The circadian rhythm is our body’s 24 hour cycle of being asleep and awake. The light around us heavily influences this cycle.
When its pitch dark, our brains start to produce melatonin – a hormone that helps us get to sleep. But when there’s artificial light present, this production of melatonin is suppressed, and our brain’s sleep cycle is disrupted.
Effectively, we start to think that days are longer than they should be, which results in a regular lack of sleep.
2. Screens Can Increase the Risk of Sleep Disorders
If you have a habit of looking at your laptop or cell phone in the minutes before you drift off to sleep, you could be headed for bigger problems.
Overexposure to artificial light that emulates from screens can result in a long-term alteration to the circadian rhythm, which in turn can lead to a myriad of sleep disorders such as insomnia, and a delayed sleep phase disorder, or DSPD.
3. Screens Can Replace Natural Light
Lighting has a huge impact on our moods. Natural light during the daytime can provide a healthy boost of serotonin, can boost our moods and our energy, and can make us feel alert and ready to start the day.
While natural light can do a world of good, artificial light can have the opposite effect. Poor artificial lighting can trigger depression, as that soothing brain chemical serotonin tends to plummet when we spend more time in front of a “fake” light, and not enough time in front of the real thing.
As a result, our sleep habits and body clocks, as well as our overall mood, tend to suffer.
4. So How Do You Stop The Problems of Too Much Screen Time? It’s Easier than you Think
While we’d all like to take a permanent t break from our screens from time to time, the fact is that they are a part of our everyday life.
The good news is that you don’t have to make too many drastic changes to reduce the ill effects of too much screen time, and a few small changes can make a world of difference.
- Shut it down 30-60 minutes before you go to bed.
- Open the windows and let the light shine in.
- Take a screen break and go outside.
Screens are a part of our modern life, no doubt about it. But with a couple of adjustments and a little sense when it comes to nighttime screen usage, you can ensure that your screens don’t interrupt your everyday life any more than necessary.