Bright Screens, Less Dreams: The Effects of Screen Time in Bed

Technology is great. We can summon the whole world’s wealth of knowledge from our smartphones or tablets these days. And we search for media and info almost around the clock, from the moment we wake up until the moment we fall asleep. Who doesn’t check their emails on their phone first thing in the morning or respond to a text message right before we go to bed? But using your phone, tablet, or other media device could be messing up your sleep cycle, which could lead to a variety of health problems.

The benefits of sleep are numerous. Studies have indicated that getting enough sleep can help reduce the chance of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, memory problems, and dexterity. Not getting enough sleep also has been linked to off-setting the benefits of exercise and a good diet. So it’s no wonder that America is having problems sleeping and suffering when 95% of Americans have reportedly used some kind of electronic device while they were trying to sleep—and are doing themselves no favors when it comes to their sleep cycles.

Being exposed to artificial light has been linked to a reduction in melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone that controls sleep cycles, and by reducing melatonin, people are increasing their chances of developing cancer, reducing their immune system’s effectiveness, and possibly contributing to heart disease. Blue light in particular—the kind of light emitted from devices—is particularly effective as suppressing melatonin production.

Interestingly enough, some programs attempt to change the exposure of blue light by changing the color of light emitted from devices. Other research has pointed to using colored glasses to reduce the strain of blue light on the body. Of course, it might be best just to not use your device within an hour of trying to go to bed, but if you absolutely have to check your email one more time before you drift off to sleep, remember to minimize the amount of time as much as possible. Your body will thank you in the long run!