Science and Tech


Why do screens affect our sleep?

58% of Americans say they look at a screen within an hour of bedtime.
Posted at 5:30 PM, Mar 28, 2023

You’re ready to go to sleep, getting tired and then you reach for your phone. Sound familiar? 

58% of Americans say they look at a screen within an hour of bedtime, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2022 "Sleep in America" poll.

The results showed more screen time equated to less dream time. Frequent bedtime-screen-users reported trouble falling asleep at a higher statistically-significant rate than those who avoid screens before bed. 

Doctor Stuart Quan is a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School. 

"Light basically artificially alters your circadian rhythm. So, it makes it harder for people to go to sleep at the correct period of time," Quan said. 

That’s true of artificial light from your phone, tablet and computer. Dr. Quan says it’s a driving factor behind America’s overall sleep problem. 

"We are a country of sleep deprived individuals. If you think back 100 years ago, we didn't have much in the way of artificial lighting and stuff like that. Now lights are everywhere," Quan said. 

Devices like phones and computers produce a short wavelength light called blue light that can throw off your natural sleep cycle. Our bodies are designed to sleep when it’s dark out and be awake when it’s light outside. Your brain produces melatonin at night, a hormone that sparks sleepiness. 

Studies suggest blue light exposure from our screens can suppress melatonin production. 

Sleep experts recommend putting down your phone before bed and reading a book instead. If you do have to check your screen, try putting it in night mode to reduce its brightness and blue light emissions. 

Clara Oliva is pictured.

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