If you are like many of us, you spend a good amount of the day looking at a screen, whether it is your phone, tablet, or computer. Most people end their day again, looking at a screen. Finishing up some work, reading an e-book, watching a show or checking social media. But how much are these nighttime habits affecting our health?
Many studies have warned people about the dangers of looking at their phones, tablets, and computers right before they go to sleep. A blue light is emitted from the screens which causes several problems for someone who is trying to fall asleep right after looking at a screen. This light that is emitted suppresses melatonin levels which keeps you alert and awake.
What is melatonin and why is it important?
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates a person’s sleep and wake up cycles. Everyone has an internal clock that controls sleep cycles and wake up times. This internal clock is responsible for the amount of melatonin being made by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin levels are higher in the evening and remain at high levels throughout the night until the early morning when the levels drop. Melatonin levels are usually high and already in the blood by 9 o’clock at night, which causes a decrease in alertness. At this point, sleep always sounds like a great idea and one might start heading to bed. Melatonin levels will remain high throughout the night and return to a low level in the morning when it is time to start the day.
Melatonin is essential for a great sleep and productive day. Without Melatonin, it would be very difficult to fall asleep and remain asleep for the majority of the night. This would lead to feeling sluggish and unproductive during the day. Not getting enough sleep can lead to more serious health issues like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.
How can I avoid disrupting my sleep?
Here are some tips on how you can avoid the harmful effects of light emitting screens before bed and get a good night’s sleep:
It is best to avoid looking at light emitting devices before bed. Without this light, you will not remain alert as it gets closer for you to go to sleep. This will allow melatonin levels to rise naturally at night and give you a great sleep that your body needs.
If it is necessary to look at a screen before bed, you should turn the brightness down as much as you can. There are filters available for some devices to block the blue light that is emitted. These devices will help by not interfering with melatonin levels and your overall alertness. It is also suggested that you keep the device at least 14 inches away from your face.
You can put down your e-book and pick up a real book if you like to read right before bed. Avoiding a screen completely will really benefit you in the last hour or so before sleep.
If you want to get an even better night’s sleep, you can exercise. Going for a run or doing some yoga will help you sleep better because your body will be tired and relaxed for bed.
If you want a snack, your best options are milk and cereal, cheese and crackers or toast and peanut butter because they contain a protein and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates make an amino acid called tryptophan which causes drowsiness.
Sleeping aids, like melatonin pills, are also available. Studies have shown that they do not provide a huge difference in a person’s sleep cycle but many people take them.
By following these simple tips, you should have no problem falling asleep and feeling refreshed and ready for your day in the morning. No screens before bed, light out!
Treatment with Dr. Shukla
The importance of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated. If you or your loved ones are experiencing trouble sleeping schedule a consultation with sleep specialist Dr. Mayank Shukla today.