Why Disconnecting From Blue Light Matters for Sleep
In our always on world, it can be hard to disconnect to rest, relax, and reset. However, we are also used to thinking of our mobile devices as extensions of ourselves. From the alarm going off on your mobile in the morning, to a Netflix binge in the evening, to checking your personal emails, and scrolling social media last thing at night. Our mobile devices rarely leave our sides. As much as our devices enrich our lives with content to consume at the touch of a button, whilst also being our personal PA, is it also having a negative effect on our sleep and ability to switch off?
The simple answer is yes, our phones and tablets can very much affect the quality of sleep we get in the evenings. We recommend turning the tech and screens off at least one-hour before you go to sleep. That's why February 2024's Work Life Balance Challenge is 'Turn off the tech.' Follow #WLBChallenge on our social channels, follow along and achieve work-life balance by the end of 2024. Small actions to find your balance, can have a big impact.
Why Limit Screens and Blue Light for Sleep? Let's Explore...
The effect of light. Electronic devices emit blue light, which can disrupt or suppress the natural production of melatonin, a hormone essential for sleep. The Sleep Foundation explains that blue light exposure in the evening can delay melatonin release, making it harder to fall sleep and potentially affecting sleep quality. Turn off tech and screens at least one-hour before bed to help relax your body and mind and prepare the brain for sleep. When using screens in the evening, prior to this tech-free hour, ensure the blue light filter, or night-time mode is on. This reduces bright and blue light being emitted and can help improve sleep quality. Also, if your screen brightness doesn’t automatically adjust based on the brightness in your environment, or if it doesn’t have this filter or setting, then ensure to manually turn the brightness down.
The same can be done for your bedroom environment. Ensure the curtains are closed, no streetlights shining in. Turn the bedroom light down to a dim setting or use a lamp to provide lower relaxing light whilst your mind relaxes. This will also promote rest, rather than a brighter setting which keeps you alert and awake.
Blue Light, Sleep, and Mental Arousal
Mental decompression vs mental arousal. Disconnecting from technology allows the brain to shift away from the constant stimulation of screens, aiding in mental relaxation. This mental break is essential for winding down and preparing for sleep.
The content consumed through screens, whether it's work-related emails or social media, can cause mental arousal, which is counterproductive to relaxation before bed. Just think of the things you are reading or seeing on social media, for example. This will often take you through to video content to consume – just like a Netflix binge – or reading posts, articles, or emails is just as thought provoking and doesn’t enable your brain to rest and relax before it goes into sleep mode. Also consuming content, especially on social media, can affect your mood and worsen any mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, especially in teenagers or young adults. Even the act of 'doom scrolling' can be enough to engage the brain, just think about how much content you are consuming by the second! A screen-free hour allows for a mental distancing from these stimuli.
Enhancing sleep quality. By avoiding screens and blue light before bed, you not only fall asleep faster but also improve the quality of your sleep. Quality sleep is critical for cognitive functions like memory, concentration, and decision-making. Excessive screen time can affect your sleep-wake cycle. Prolonged screen time can contribute to conditions such as insomnia. Getting into a good bedtime routine, that limits tech and screens is a win-win – though we know it isn't easy to put the phones away. That's why 'phone cages' are now a thing – enabling you to physically lock your tech away so you're not tempted!
Practical Tips to Limit Blue Light and Embrace a Tech-Free Hour Before Sleep.
Screen-free, pre-sleep activities. Instead of screen time, why not try listening to, or reading, a book, relaxing music, or try a bubble bath. These activities are conducive to relaxation and can become a comforting pre-sleep routine, whilst still giving you some much needed 'you time' after a long day.
Create a screen-free environment. Consider making your bedroom a technology-free zone. This helps in associating the bedroom solely with relaxation and sleep, rather than work or entertainment.
Use blue light filters. If avoiding screens entirely is not feasible, a blue light filter on your devices in the evening is a must. Try to still put screens down and turn the lights off for a period before you sleep, especially if you are not someone that can turn your TV off or put the phone down, turn the light off and instantly sleep. Consider how long on average it takes you to get to sleep. Say it takes you around 60-minutes to get to sleep, now consider how much less sleep you get when your bedtime is 11pm, but you don’t get to sleep until 12am. What if you started your bedtime routine an hour earlier and put the phone down at 10pm, ready for sleep to arrive at 11pm. An extra hour of sleep can have a big impact on how you feel the next day.
The Calm Before Sleep - Eliminating Blue Light.
This practice of turning off technology is not just about improving sleep; it's a holistic approach to balancing our increasingly digital lives with our natural biological needs. It encourages us to unwind and rest, essential for a rejuvenating sleep and a productive, balanced life.
By incorporating this Turn off the Tech Challenge into your routine, you're not only improving your sleep routine but also taking a significant step towards a more balanced, health-oriented lifestyle.