Getting a good night's sleep is one of the most important things you can do to improve your overall health, reduce stress and depression, and boost daytime productivity. But so many things get in the way of a truly restful and uninterrupted night's snooze. In addition to drinking too much caffeine too late in the day, we're addicted to our screens.
Electronic devices like smartphones, tablets and e-readers emit blue wavelengths of light that suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps our body maintain a steady circadian rhythm. Computers and TVs also produce blue light, but we sit further away from them, so the dosage isn't as high. When melatonin production is suppressed, the body and brain miss their normal cues to wind down and prepare for sleep.
In one small study, participants who spent time on an e-reader before bedtime took longer to fall asleep, averaged less REM sleep and were more tired when woken after eight hours compared to people who read a printed book before bed. The researchers also worried about the long-term effects of melatonin suppression, which has been linked with higher incidences of breast and colon cancer in night-shift workers.
As a general rule, turn off all electronic devices a half-hour before bedtime. In addition to letting melatonin do its thing, it will give your eyes and brain a rest in preparation for sleepy-time.