Today’s bedtime ritual is a bit different from even that of a decade ago. With the birth of Netflix came the birth of a new bedtime routine: falling asleep to reruns of Friends, Bob’s Burgers or Criminal Minds (just a few of my favorites). Something about the comfortable sounds of familiar voices and dialogue lull you to sleep. But do you ever have trouble staying asleep? If you do, you’re not alone. And while Netflix may feel like your bedtime friend, it could be secretly sabotaging your precious beauty sleep. What a bitch, right?
A Rising Correlation Between Technology and Poor Sleep
As technology has become a part of our daily lives (in nearly every way) over the course of the 21st century, there has been an increase in insomnia and complaints of restless sleep. Universities began to study a possible correlation between using technology such as cell phones, tablets, and laptops around bedtime and how doing so affected one’s sleep pattern or habits. Can you guess what they found?
Anne-Marie Chang, a neuroscientist at Pennsylvania State University, was interviewed by the Boston Globe on this particular topic. She stated, “It seems that the use of these devices in the evening before bedtime really has this negative impact on our sleep and on circadian rhythms.” A circadian rhythm is a rhythm associated with a 24-hour period. Our bodies run on a circadian clock, or a 24 hour clock. This clock tells us when we are hungry, alert or tired. Looking at screens within an hour of trying to fall asleep disrupts those natural circadian rhythms.
The Science Behind Falling Asleep
Another important chemical our bodies produce to regulate our circadian clock is melatonin. When your body produces melatonin, it is signalling your body to rest. You can even buy melatonin tablets at stores like Walmart if you have trouble falling asleep. The trouble with looking at your Facebook feed or Netflix queue before bed is the blue light emitted from the screens can reduce your melatonin level by 22 percent, making you feel less tired later into the night.
Bye Bye Netflix: Break the Bad Habit
While you may think watching Netflix, looking at your phone or reading on your iPad truly does make you tired, in the end it isn’t the act of looking at screens that makes you sleepy, but rather the familiarity and habit you have formed. Why is breaking a habit so hard? Because it’s comfortable and soothing. Is watching Netflix relaxing? Yes. Is the continual scrolling through your Instagram feed therapeutic in a mindless way? Yes. But that doesn’t make it helpful to falling asleep.
When you lose precious sleep at night, you aren’t simply tired the next day. A pumpkin spice latte won’t do your body any good in the long run. Missing out on precious sleep leaves your body at greater risk for illnesses and diseases such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and even a shorter life expectancy.
I mean, everybody loves sleep right? So let’s get the most sleep possible and ditch the screens before bed. Dim your room lighting, crack open a book (I highly suggest any of the Sherlock Holmes novels), snuggle into bed and wait for your eyelids to droop. You might just experience the best sleep of your life!