Our electronic devices are our new bedtime buddies, but could they be messing with our sleep? It might be time to adjust your bedtime routine and get rid of everything that’s keeping you from rest.
Using devices before sleep
Technology is literally everywhere, and it’s hard to imagine a life without electronic devices. After all, they make our lives easier and keep us connected. That’s why many people always keep their devices with them — from the moment they wake up until their head hits the pillow.
According to a survey, 9 out of 10 Americans use some form of technological device at least a few nights each week in the hour before bed. Among young adults under 30, this number rises to 96%.
For some people, it has become a daily habit. About 60% of young adults and 51% of children and adolescents use electronic devices after the lights go out every night. The most popular devices among users include TVs, cell phones, computers/laptops, and ebook devices.
How devices affect the quality of sleep
Watching TV or scrolling through social media before bed might not seem like a big deal. However, most experts strongly advise against it as it could potentially disrupt your sleep.
Many studies have linked bedtime or nighttime use of electronic devices with negative sleep outcomes. In a study involving 2,390 adults between 18 and 35 years old, more than half said that their electronic devices have an adverse effect on their sleep.
Another study published in 2023 analyzed the sleep health of 3,702 adults aged 20–69 years in South Korea. Those who used electronic devices before bedtime for more than four days a week experienced poorer sleep quality, shorter sleep duration, increased time to initiate sleep, and reported higher levels of daytime sleepiness.
Here are some reasons why using electronic devices before bed can disrupt your sleep:
How long before sleep can I use devices?
To avoid the harmful effects of these devices on your sleep, it’s best to avoid using them in the hours before your usual bedtime. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends disconnecting from all electronic devices at least 30 minutes to an hour before bed.
Creating a device-free bed routine
If your usual nighttime activity involves binge-watching series or commenting on all your friend's Instagram posts, establishing a device-free bedtime routine can be pretty challenging. However, getting used to a more sleep-friendly bedroom is possible. Check out these helpful tips:
- Remove electronic devices from your bedroom. You might not be able to get rid of all of them, but try to keep as many as possible away. Here’s a tip: charge your devices outside the bedroom and grab them with a full battery when you wake up.
- Establish new pre-sleep habits. Try swapping watching TV or checking messages for wind-down activities like taking a warm bath, putting on pajamas, reading a book, or listening to relaxing music.
- Set consistent times for turning off screens. Establish a deadline for turning down your electronic devices. This will keep you from watching just one more reel or checking another email.
- Establish limits. Clearly communicate to your friends and co-workers that you won't be available to respond to messages after a certain time unless it's an emergency.
- Back to the basics. Instead of using your cell phone, use a regular alarm clock to help you wake up in the morning. You may also consider using a white noise machine or speaker to play calming music.
- Try relaxation techniques. If the lack of technology is stressing you out, consider relaxation methods like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga. These activities can help you chill out and get ready for a more restful night's sleep.
Why do some people find using devices helpful for sleep?
Despite the drawbacks, some people still enjoy incorporating technology into their bedtime routines. They choose to do so for various reasons, including:
- To help relax. Some people find that listening to music, watching TV, or reading an ebook helps them relax and fall asleep faster.
- To enhance productivity. Some people use technology to get things done or plan for the next day, making it easier for them to stay productive.
- To stay connected. Technology connects us with our family and friends, which is important for a healthy mind.
While most experts agree that staring at a screen before bed
isn’t ideal, for some people, having a technology-free bedroom is not an option. If that’s your case, there are still ways to minimize the impact electronic devices have on your sleep.
- Turn off all notifications on your cell phone.
- Dim your screen by adjusting the brightness to the lowest level.
- Use your devices in the night mode to reduce the amount of blue light they emit.
- Consider using blue light glasses.
- Check out specialized apps that automatically put devices in airplane mode at a set time.
- Avoid checking your phone when waking up at night.
Living in a tech-dependent society, changing habits from day to night isn’t always easy. However, trying out some of the tips mentioned here can put you on the path to building healthier sleep habits.
Should you use devices before bed?
Electronic devices such as tablets and smartphones or watching TV before bed can negatively impact your sleep. It may lead to difficulty falling asleep, shorter sleep duration, poorer sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness. So, avoiding using these devices at least 30 minutes to an hour before going to sleep is best.
Is TV before bed as bad as a phone?
Some health professionals argue that smartphone screens may pose a greater risk than TV screens. Although the blue light emitted by both devices can disrupt sleep quality, using a smartphone brings the light way closer to our face, making it more intense than when we're watching TV from a distance.
How do I reduce screen time before bed?
You can use many strategies to reduce screen time before bed. Perhaps one of the most effective is to remove electronic devices such as TVs, tablets, notebooks, and PCs from your bedroom, creating a device-free zone. Some apps help you set a digital curfew, ensuring that you stop using certain applications after a designated time. Another option is to activate the blue light filter on your devices.
90% of Americans use electronic devices at least a few nights each week in the hour before bed.
Exposure to light from electronic devices at night suppresses the release of melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep.
People should stop using electronic devices at least 30 minutes to one hour before going to bed.
One can optimize sleep by keeping electronics out of the bedroom, setting consistent screen-off times, using a regular alarm clock, and using devices in the night mode.
- Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. The sleep and technology use of Americans: findings from the National Sleep Foundation's 2011 Sleep in America poll.
- Sleep Health. Associations between device use before bed, mood disturbance, and insomnia symptoms in young adults.
- Parenting and Family. Prevalence of electronic device use before bed among Australian children and adolescents: a cross-sectional population level study.
- J Korean Med Sci. Association between electronic device use at bedtime and COVID-19 vaccine-related adverse events during the COVID-19 pandemic in Korean adults: a nationwide cross-sectional population-based study.
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Video games and social media: factors disrupting healthy student sleep.