How Screens Are Sabotaging Your Sleep And What To Do About It
A total before-bed phone ban might not be the answer.
Altogether, us Aussies checked our phones 560 million times in 2017, and we interrupted about 1.2 million meals by sneakily taking a peek at our screens.
Not only that, almost half of us still use our phones immediately before bed, despite experts telling us that it's not a good idea, according to a study by Deloitte.
So, are we a nation of hapless and helpless screen addicts?
"This is a misconception," Elina Winnel, master sleep coach at The Sleep Expert told 10 daily.
Well, that's a bit of a surprise!
"The phone is not what causes the sleep issues," Winnel explained. "It is why and how we use our phones that is the issue."
If someone is seeking constant stimulation, and as a result, struggles to disengage with their phone in the evening, it is not the phone that is the issue. It is our ability to be present, wind down, and connect in with ourselves that is lacking.
Less surprisingly, Winnel pointed to millennials as the worst offenders when it came to turning off tech before hitting the hay.
"Generally the younger the person is, the more likely they are to take a phone to bed with them."
She's not wrong -- almost 70 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds admit they use their phones excessively, according to the Deloitte study.
No matter our age, staying glued to screens isn't doing us any favours when it comes to getting eight hours of shut-eye.
How screens mess up our sleep
When it comes to technology and how it impacts our sleep, Winnel told us that there are three main factors at play.
Let there be light
Most of our devices emit a blue light, which is a very short wavelength and is similar to that of the sun. You're probs not even aware of it, mostly 'cause blue light actually appears white to us. Crazy, hey?
When we cop a heap of this blue light our brain registers that it is daytime, not nighttime.
That's why scrolling through Insta for hours before -- or even in bed -- makes it a bit confusing for the old noggin'. Should we be asleep or awake? 'Who knows!' our brains shout.
To add to the muddled mess, blue light has been shown to suppress melatonin, our sleep hormone. Low levels of melatonin means a low chance of slipping off to slumber land.
So it is essential that we cut out or reduce this blue light, to allow our melatonin levels to remain high in the evening.
Make a chill choice
Winnel also wants us to keep an eye on how we're using our devices before bed.
"If we are doing activities that cause us to concentrate, get excited, or speed up our brains in some way, it is not conducive to sleep," Winnel said.
"In order to sleep we need to slow our brains down and relax."
So, that means a complete before-bed tech ban, then?
"Not necessarily," Winnel told 10 daily. "Many people use technology as part of their wind-down routine in the evening."
First, make sure you block out that blue light by using an app (more on that later) or adjusting your device settings -- including on your television.
She suggests watching a nice comedy that calms you, listening to relaxing music or a meditation app, or reading on a device that is not back-lit -- like a Kindle Paperwhite device -- unlike a tablet, which will stimulate your brain.
This is a world away from what not to do, such as working on a complex problem on our laptop in bed, or watching a horror movie which will make you waaayyyy too alert and stressed to fall asleep.
Power off (kinda)
In Winnel's opinion, the best thing you can do before diving under the covers is to turn off your device. If you simply can't, that's okay -- putting it on flight mode is a good compromise.
This helps to minimise the device's radiation emission throughout the night.
"Radiation emission impacts the quality of our sleep -- particularly if you leave your phone near your head," Winnel told 10 daily.
Go next-level and leave it off and in another room -- it'll do wonders to curb your need to check it during the night.
If you just have to look at your phone during the night, try to keep it to under 30 seconds.
More than this short glance may trigger your brain into thinking it is daytime, if the blue light is not blocked out.
Winnel's tips for a top night
Block out the blue light -- Apps such as f.lux change your screen’s colour to minimise pesky blue light as the sun goes down.
Get set for sleep -- Many devices offer a ‘night mode’ option which can be set to automatically adjust the intensity and hue of the light they emit. If you're a less than brilliant sleeper, this is even more important.
Eyewear -- there are specs out there designed to block blue light, and -- bonus -- they also filter out ambient shades of blue from other lights like compact fluorescent light fittings.
Feature image: Getty.