In the digital age, our constantly connected lifestyles rarely allow us to switch off. Our phones, laptops and tablets mean we can shop online, surf the net, check work email, and scroll through social media anytime we like — including when we’re curled up in bed.
Our children are also increasingly being affected by too much screen time. Playing games on tablets, chatting with friends online, and watching TV in bed have all crept into the nightly routine.
The result of these constantly connected lifestyles? Many of us are becoming chronically sleep deprived. This in turn can negatively influence everything from our productivity and memory, to our stress levels, eating habits, and even our relationships.
Why does screen time harm sleep?
Our electronic devices emit something called ‘blue light’, which is the same wavelength of light as the morning sun. This tells your brain it’s time to wake up, which halts the release of melatonin— the hormone produced by your brain in the evening to make you feel sleepy.
Such devices can also be a source of overstimulation and stress. Work emails, scrolling through the news, online gaming, or watching a movie often leave us feeling alert and switched on, just when we should be dropping off.
Tips for limiting screen time
To help you and the kids limit your evening screen time, try the following five tips:
1. Have a device shut-off time
At least two hours before bed, turn off all laptops, tablets and phones. As a family, you might want to decide on a specific time so everyone turns off their devices together. Being consistent about when this happens is the key to success.
2. Go silent
If turning off all of your devices feels like too much of a stretch, try turning off email alerts and push notifications for your apps. Go one step further and put your devices away in a drawer. Out of sight is out of mind.
3. Set a schedule
Setting a fixed period for screen time is especially useful for kids.Choose a time of day, and a duration, when they can watch TV, or play on their devices. That might involve giving them one hour while you cook dinner. To automate screen time and stay consistent, tools such as Circle let you limit when and for how long everyone is online.
4. Apply a blue light filter
Most smartphones have a built-in night setting that apply a blue filter to your screen. This reduces eye strain and helps you have a more restful night’s sleep. You can also download a free programme called f.lux for laptops.
5. Have a device-free bedroom
Come bedtime, leave your devices in another room and rely on a regular alarm clock to wake you. You’ll be less likely to check your phone if you have to crawl out of bed to find it in the dark.