What can be more relaxing than climbing into bed at the end of a long day and watching a few episodes of your favorite Netflix series on your phone, tablet, or the television in your bedroom? A little television before bed has become part of the pre-sleep routine for many people. Some people might even find it hard to fall asleep without it.
So what’s the harm? While you may not realize it, that screen time before bed can be doing more harm than good and interfering with your ability to get a good night’s sleep. In addition to messing with your energy levels, poor sleep can lead to many health problems and quality of life issues.
If you’re struggling with sleep issues, we can help. Dr. Christopher Riegel and our team at The Riegel Center offer sleep management services at our office in Plano, Texas.
How watching television in bed can interfere with getting good sleep
On the surface, watching television before bed can seem relaxing, creating the perfect conditions to fall asleep. There’s nothing like a good movie or your favorite show to take your mind off the day’s problems and stressful situations. Many people fall asleep in the middle of watching something, so how bad can it be for your sleep cycle?
According to research, the devices we use to watch our favorite movies and programs before bed can disrupt the sleep cycle in several ways. Devices like phones, tablets, laptops, and television screens emit blue light that can mess with your sleep cycle by disrupting the flow of melatonin, the hormone primarily responsible for regulating the sleep cycle.
Before the digital age, the sleep/wake cycle was fairly straightforward - the sun would rise, triggering the production of cortisol to give the body the energy it would need to get up and face the day. Once the sun went down, the darkness would trigger output of melatonin, preparing the body for the sleep cycle.
The blue light emitted by LED and electronic devices is in the same family as sunlight (short wave, high energy light visible to the human eye), so you can see how even “artificial” light that you may not even be aware of can trick your body into thinking that it wants to be awake and alert.
In addition to disrupting the natural flow of melatonin, watching television before bed can also cause you to spend less time in the REM (rapid eye movement) portion of the sleep cycle, which is associated with dreaming and cognition. When you wake up feeling sluggish and “foggy,” it’s because you didn’t get enough REM sleep.
Over time, poor sleep can affect your memory, cause mood problems and fatigue, and increase your risk of serious physical health problems such as:
While you don’t have to completely deprive yourself and give up your devices cold turkey (let’s face it, that would be impossible in the modern world), tuning out at least an hour or two before bed and shutting off blue light-emitting devices at night can help you sleep better and feel more refreshed in the morning.
For more information about how sleep affects your health and wellness and about the sleep management services available at The Riegel Center, contact us today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Riegel at our office in Plano, Texas. You can also schedule a virtual visit.