Every single one of us is guilty of this. Watching TV right before (and maybe even during) bedtime is habit that’s hard to kick, especially since it has become so ingrained in our daily routine that it would seem odd if we didn’t indulge in the last few episodes of Game Of Thrones right before we hit the hay.
After all, what else is there to do right before bed?
The TV was one of the most relevant devices when it was used primarily to relay live information to the masses in an instant. Over the years and as better communication devices were invented, the TV slowly transformed into something we gawk at, usually because we can’t think of anything better to do. This is where the problem begins.
Watching TV right before bed has become a pastime for many, simply because there’s a TV in the room. And while watching TV before you sleep isn’t inherently bad, watching it too close to bedtime or watching certain shows right before bed can affect the quality and quantity of your sleep. Here’s why.
TVs Emit Light That Can Interrupt Your Sleep Cycle
The sleep cycle–or circadian rhythm–is closely governed by the presence (or lack) of one particular hormone: melatonin.
Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is what is responsible for putting us down and keeping us asleep for the entire night. The hormone is released gradually at night and continues to be produced until the wee hours of the morning, but it’s the sun and a cold blast of brisk morning air that completely dissipates it.
TVs and other digital electronics emit blue light, and this has been found to be the cause of a lot of sleeping problems in the recent decades. Blue light inhibits the production of melatonin since the brain is unable to distinguish it from daylight.
What this means is that nothing, not even your comfortable Murphy bed mattress, can lull you back to sleep. Not immediately at least. You will only fall asleep a few hours after you’ve turned off the TV, and that’s if prolonged hours in front of the tube haven’t completely reset your circadian rhythm.
When subjected to blue light frequently, the brain’s melatonin production drops, making it difficult, if not impossible, to fall asleep. This can worsen over time, leading to chronic sleep disorders such as insomnia. But that’s not the only way a TV can prevent you from catching some well-earned Zs.
Watching Certain Things Right Before Bed Can Affect Your Sleep
Even though watching a bit of TV about an hour or so before you turn in for the night isn’t that harmful, shows that get you wired, scared, excited, and riled up are obviously not shows you should be watching right before bed.
Ideally, the shows you watch as you wind down from a busy day at work should give you a warm, relaxed feeling, not get you ready for a marathon. Therefore, avoid anything that might get your blood pressure rising because this will also cause a delay in the production of melatonin, curbing the amount of sleep time you get.
Is that it then? Should we all just stop watching TV at night altogether? The answer is no, and here’s how to do things the right way.
Keep the TV Out of the Bedroom
First and foremost, treat your bedroom like the sleep sanctuary it ideally should be. Having a large screen staring down at you is too tempting for most of us to ignore, so eliminate the temptation altogether.
This doesn’t just apply to the TV alone. Your smartphone, tablet, computer, Android TV box, and gaming consoles all fall into the same bag. All these devices are known to emit blue light and/or disrupt the body’s ability to produce the sleep hormone when it needs to.
How about grabbing a copy of Sherlock Holmes before bed instead? Books are a great way to wind down, and so is a good old conversation.
Watch TV At Least an Hour before Bedtime
Give your mind the chance to wind down after your day. Plopping down on the couch and channel surfing just distracts it, but actually taking time away from all your devices and allowing your brain to slowly turn itself off lets you quell any running thoughts long enough for sleep to work its magic.
So there’s nothing wrong with an episode or two of Friends every day after work. Just make sure you do it long before bed.
Many electronics have the ability to rob us of our sleep, but that doesn’t mean your 60-inch flat screen was bought in vain. Just keep a handle on how long you watch TV and if it’s close to your bedtime, what you watch.