Wherever you are, chances are high that your smartphone is never more than an arm’s length away. Our phones are one of the most helpful tools in our lives. We use them to shop, to work, to communicate with each other, to take pictures, to read the news, and to watch movies. A lot of us would probably be lost without them.
During the day, your smartphone is a necessity. When it’s time to get ready for bed, however, your smartphone can be a hindrance.
The light emitted by your smartphone, especially when combined with the mental stimulation it provides, can work against your body’s natural processes to get ready for sleep.
Here’s what you need to know about what your body needs for restful sleep and what you can do to make the process easier. Fall asleep faster with a few lifestyle changes and some better habits.
What Is the Circadian Rhythm, and How Does It Affect Sleep?
The human body has its own built in clock called the circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm involves receiving specific kinds of sensory input and encouraging the body to respond to that input appropriately. Your circadian rhythm picks up cues, and triggers the production of certain hormones, like melatonin, when your body feels it’s time to transition from wakefulness to a sleep state.
Melatonin is a hormone your body naturally produces to begin the process of winding down for bed. It relaxes the body and mind to support your efforts to catch some shut-eye.
An important part of your circadian rhythm’s ability to regulate this process is the way it works with your eyes. Your circadian rhythm knows when you’re exposed to light. Certain types of light can lead your brain to believe it’s daytime, which will encourage your systems to stay awake and alert.
At nighttime, natural light is gone. Your circadian rhythm knows when the sun goes down and begins the process of preparing you for sleep. These cues are important, and some of your habits may be disrupting your brain’s ability to sense and respond to these cues.
How Does Screen Time Affect Sleep?
Screen time actively works against your body’s natural attempts to regulate its sleep wake cycle in two ways. The first is the exposure to light that your body may mistakenly perceive as daylight. The second is the stimulation that comes from scrolling through social media, playing games, or watching videos.
Blue Light Exposure
The light emitted from your smartphone, eReader, laptop, TV, or handheld gaming system is on the blue light spectrum. Daylight is also on the blue light spectrum. When your brain perceives blue light, it usually isn’t able to distinguish between artificial blue light and natural daylight.
The light from your screen is telling your brain that it’s time to be awake. Your body processes get a little jumbled because your circadian rhythm thinks that it can’t possibly be time for bed since the messaging sent from the blue light is reporting that the sun is still out in full force.
As a result, your circadian rhythm will delay the production of melatonin. Without sufficient amounts of melatonin, your body is unable to adequately regulate itself for bedtime. Your body’s clock continues to remain wakeful and alert, even though the clock on the wall is saying it’s well past bedtime.
At the end of the day, your systems should be powering down. You don’t want to put your brain to work when you should be setting it up for a break.
Reading and comprehending a fascinating article, learning a new skill from a tutorial video, playing a challenging game, or even sharing a funny meme to your inner circle will push your brain to stay alert.
You’re firing on all cylinders, and your brainpower won’t just stop the moment you put your phone down.
Your bed should never be a place for heavy brain stimulation. If you’re used to keeping your mind active when you’re all tucked in, it’s difficult for your brain to know when to switch gears.
Provoking Emotional Response
There are times where you’re casually scrolling through social media, minding your own business, when you stumble upon something upsetting. Maybe you find out that something unfortunate happened to someone you care about, or see a sad news article about things going on in the world that are out of your control.
You could be reminded about an upcoming work deadline or exam that has you stressed out, or see something that makes you feel self conscious. It happens to everyone.
Posts and content like this can dramatically alter your mental state. You don’t want to feel anxious or upset right before bed, especially since it’s important to be in a calm and peaceful place before you drift off to sleep. If you’re anxious or upset, it’s more difficult for your body to achieve deep and restful REM sleep.
Do Blue Light Filtering Devices Work?
The effects of blue light on sleep patterns and eye strain have been consistently observed for quite some time. Smartphones and other tech have been an integral part of our lives for years, and researchers have been able to clearly demonstrate the ways too much exposure to blue light can be detrimental to sleep.
This led to the invention of devices and the development of software designed to minimize the problem. If you feel these solutions help, you can use them. Just be wary of how effective they actually are. While they’re good for minimizing the effects of blue light in some situations, they’re nowhere near as effective as just turning off your screen sooner.
Blue Light Glasses
Blue light glasses are glasses with special lenses designed to reduce the amount of blue light that makes it from your screen to your eyes. The primary claim behind many of these glasses is that they help to reduce eye strain related to the use of technology.
There’s only one problem — the majority of eye strain from technology has nothing to do with blue light.
The majority of eye strain related to tech use is related to the fact that people stare more and blink less when they’re using their devices. This can make the eyes feel dry, sore, or irritated. Filtering blue light won’t work to change this habit.
Taking frequent breaks from screens, keeping a comfortable distance between your skin and your face, and using eye drops will do far more to combat the uncomfortable effects of eye strain.
As far as blue light glasses correlate with sleep, there is some anecdotal evidence that they may pose a modest beneficial benefit for people with insomnia. Overall, the quality of the evidence isn’t significant enough to suggest that blue light glasses are useful for promoting a healthy circadian rhythm.
Blue light glasses are most beneficial to people with migraines that are sensitive to light. Even then, blue light glasses aren’t the most effective option. It may be best to save your money and skip the glasses.
Screen Overlay Apps or Settings
Screen overlay apps and software that claims to block blue light will put an orange cast over your screen. There’s only one problem. The light being emitted is still blue. You simply can’t see the blue hue when it’s obscured by the orange tint.
Many people find that these apps make their screens easier to look at, but they don’t actually have any significant effect on preventing blue light from reaching your brain. Just like with blue light glasses, these apps are more useful for people with light-related migraine conditions.
Despite how they’re marketed, there’s no evidence to suggest that they’ll do anything meaningful to reduce eye strain or promote a healthy circadian rhythm.
How Long Before Bed Should You Turn Off Electronics?
Everything your body does takes a little time. Almost no reaction or process is instantaneous. You might find that it takes you a little while after a meal to realize how full you are, or there’s a small gap between when you finish your workout and when your feel-good endorphins kick in.
Your circadian rhythm works the same way with melatonin production.
Your body won’t begin producing melatonin the minute you step away from the screen. Your brain takes some time to realize that it’s dark and it’s time for bed. It may take two to three hours before the process of creating melatonin begins.
The best time to put your devices away is when you’re done with your normal evening activities and you’re ready to begin your bedtime routine. Take your time washing your face, applying your skincare, brushing your teeth, putting your pajamas on, and picking out your clothes for the next day.
If you need another way to unwind, try reading or journaling. Some people find that adult coloring books or other passively creative activities help them to divert their minds to a more peaceful place before they begin getting ready for bed.
Basically, anything that makes you happy without increasing feelings of alertness or utilizing a screen will work to fill the time void between getting ready for bed and falling asleep.
How To Fall Asleep Faster
Removing blue light from your nighttime routine is undoubtedly helpful, but it isn’t the only thing you should be doing to achieve a better quality of sleep. Your general habits and routines play a role in everything your body does. Establishing a schedule and a routine can help your body and mind seamlessly transition from one part of the day to the next.
Set a Bedtime
Bedtimes aren’t just for children. Setting a bedtime that’s about 8 hours away from your wake time will assure that you get an adequate amount of sleep every night. In addition to giving you enough time to rest, a bedtime will help your body become accustomed to sleep through routine.
If you always go to bed and wake up at the same time, your body will get the message. You’ll start to get tired around the same time every night, and it will become easier to rise at the same time every morning.
Sleeping in or staying up later for an hour or two on the weekends won’t significantly disturb this routine as long as you’re getting sufficient sleep. Just make sure you’re hitting the pillow early on Sunday night to be well rested enough for your busy week.
Soothe Your Mind
If you find yourself too restless to fall asleep at night, you might need a calming touch. The Hug Sleep Pod was designed based on the principles of deep touch therapy. You snuggle into the soft, lightweight sleep pod that offers four-way stretch. As you settle into your position, the pod provides gentle compression. It’s like being hugged or swaddled.
Many people feel secure and comfortable in the Sleep Pod. The pod is breathable, preventing body heat from building up inside. The Classic allows you to slip one foot out for temperature regulation, and the Move allows you to slip both feet out of the bottom for full freedom of movement.
You can get to sleep easier when you’re comfortable and you feel safe, and the Sleep Pod can help with just that. Doom scrolling has met its match.
Make Positive Lifestyle Changes
When you take care of your body, it takes care of you back. Eating a healthy balanced diet with mindful meal choices, getting a sufficient amount of exercise, reducing your overall stress level, cutting back on alcohol consumption, and tending to your mental health will help you achieve better overall wellness.
When your body is nourished properly and functioning at its best, everything else comes easier. You’ll feel better overall, and when you feel good, it’s easy to get comfortable at night. Small common sense based changes can go a long way in improving your quality of life.
Set the Perfect Temperature
Most people sleep best at temperatures between 60 degrees and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. If your room is too hot or too cold, your quality of sleep will decline.
When you’re hot, you toss and turn and kick off the covers. When you’re too cold, you work hard to bundle up and snuggle in. When the temperature is just right and your bedding helps it stay that way, it’s easier for your body to naturally enter its sleep state.
Make Your Bed Comfortable
If your bed is uncomfortable, you’re never going to get restless sleep. A mattress that’s too firm or too soft won’t provide adequate support to your body throughout the night.
If your mattress is uncomfortable, you might toss and turn in an attempt to find a comfortable spot before you eventually succumb to sleep. Replace your mattress if it’s lumpy or if the springs are becoming an issue.
If your mattress is only a little less comfortable than you need it to be, consider using a mattress topper. Mattress toppers are inexpensive and provide a wide variety of adjustments. You can get a firm pad or a soft pad. You can choose memory foam or gel. There are even mattress toppers designed to allow airflow, preventing your bed from getting too warm throughout the night.
Switch up your bedding. If it’s scratchy, too heavy, too light, or too lumpy, it’s time for an upgrade. If you live in a warmer climate, choose materials like cotton or linen. They’re lighter and allow for more airflow, preventing your bed from feeling too stuffy under the covers.
Lastly, choose a pillow that’s going to work for you. Some pillows work better for certain sleeping positions. Stomach sleepers, back sleepers, and side sleepers all have their necks and spines in different positions throughout the night. Choose a pillow designed to provide adequate neck support. Not only will you fall asleep faster, you’re more likely to wake up without any aches, pains, or stiffness that can occur as a result of poor sleep posture.
In Conclusion, Blue Light Is Only One Factor in Your Sleep Routine
Your electronics may be one of the most helpful things you use throughout the day, but they’re one of the least helpful things to have around at bedtime. Go old school with a paperback book or a pad and pen. Ditching the blue light will allow your body to do what it needs to do to prepare you for sleep.
While ditching blue light is important, it’s not a complete solution. Make sure you haven’t fallen into any other counterproductive bedtime habits that are making it difficult for you to fall asleep.
Get what you need to be comfortable, and put yourself into a relaxing night time routine. If you need a bedtime hug, we’re always here to give you one.