Everyone has a nighttime routine before bed. Bill Gates adores biographies and intellectual periodicals and says that he reads at least one hour before he turns out the lights. Barack Obama admits he does not have the best sleep habits. He takes late-night conference calls with senior staffers until 11:00 p.m. and then pores over briefing papers and his own writing until 2:00 a.m. Mariah Carey hardly gets out of the bed, except to give a concert. She confesses that she has to get at least 15 hours of sleep to hit those piercing high notes.
According to research, your bedtime routine may affect the quality of your sleep. Some of the most common bedtime routines that are the most detrimental to your sleep include:
- Watching television
- Working on your computer
- Checking social media sites
- Reading your Kindle
There are two words that sum up why these popular nighttime rituals adversely affect your sleep: blue light. Blue light is a part of visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum, but the wavelengths are short with a high frequency. Overexposure to blue light can cause vision problems like dry eye, blurred vision, double vision, eye fatigue and eye irritation, but it can also disrupt circadian rhythms and even possibly contribute to the development of diabetes and cancer.
Blue light also suppresses the secretion of melatonin, the hormone in your body that regulates your sleep-wake cycles. This means that e-readers, smartphones, computers and tablets are ruining your body’s natural sleep patterns. This seems counter-intuitive. Many people are convinced that the best way to fall asleep is by watching TV or reading a book, or that surfing the internet makes them drowsy. This may be true initially, but you may find yourself waking more in the middle of the night or not feeling rested in the morning (Source: ABC).
In the digital age that we live in today, it is impossible to avoid electronic devices, computers and smartphones. What we can do is implement moderation and model healthy behavior in front of our children. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Limit your exposure to electronic devices that emit blue light. If you spend the majority of your day in front of a screen, limit your screen time at home. Also, be aware of your children’s exposure to blue light and set clear boundaries.
- Charge your devices in a separate room from your bedroom. Charge electronics in a home office, dining room or kitchen.
- Power down electronics at a specific time each evening. Commit to being off your computer, phone or tablet at an exact time each night so you will get a better night’s rest.
- Get an app with a digital filter. There are many apps like the Twilight app that alters the screen’s shade according to the time of day. This minimizes blue light exposure at night and will not disrupt sleep patterns as much.
- Glasses with blue light blocker coating. If you need to watch TV to unwind at night, talk to your eye doctor about getting a clear coating on your eye glasses to block blue light.