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Are you waking up tired? Do you find yourself endlessly scrolling through social media or emails minutes before shutting your eyes to sleep?
If you fall into the vast majority, this bedtime routine may sound familiar: check email, scroll instagram, and maybe a few episodes of the Office until we fall asleep. But did you know, the artificial blue light emitted by our phones, tablets and computers actually messes with our internal clock? (1) This is why even after a full night’s sleep, if you spent time scrolling right before bed, you may wake up tired.
Throughout the day photoreceptors in our retinas are receiving light to get a sense of how light or dark it is in the world around us. That light signal then tells our brain what the status of the outside world is; if there’s light we stay awake and if it’s dark we sleep. Therefore the extra light exposure combined with the mental activity from using devices before bed promotes wakefulness when what we really want is sleep! (1)
This increased alertness and overstimulation disrupts the balance of cortisol and melatonin, two hormones that regulate wakefulness and sleep.
With increased pre-bed screen time our eyes are taking in extra light and signaling to our brain that it’s still day time in the world around us. And when our bodies think that it’s daytime we suppress melatonin and produce more cortisol to help keep us awake, alert and ready for the day! (2) With less melatonin and more cortisol comes less restful sleep once we do close our eyes for the night. Specifically, our total amount and quality of REM sleep is reduced. (2) REM sleep is so important to help the body and brain recover from the day and prepare for the next one ahead!
A chronic lack of sleep or poor quality sleep can lead to issues like hormonal imbalance, altered metabolism and adrenal fatigue. (4,5) Cortisol is secreted by our adrenals and when it is abnormally high throughout the day and night it takes a toll on our adrenal glands, leaving them less able to tend to their other functions like managing stress, hormone regulation and blood sugar balance. (6) Cortisol not only regulates waking hours but also plays a role in our blood sugar levels throughout the day. When we are experiencing adrenal fatigue our cortisol levels become irregular and are not able to regulate blood sugar appropriately. This can than signal our bodies to wake up in search of food to balance our blood sugar which only perpetuates our lack of sleep! (6)
So how to we address this issue and get more restful sleep?
First things first, take a look at your night-time routine. Are you scrolling social media in bed? Do you watch TV until you fall asleep? Are you getting pinged by notifications?
If you want to improve your sleep habits, wake up feeling rested, and reap the many health benefits of a full night’s sleep, try incorporating bedtime rituals to wind down at the end of the night that don’t involve screens! (3)
Here are some ideas!
Read a physical book
Have some quality time with your partner
Listen to a podcast or an audible book
Wash your face
Essential oil diffuser filled with lavender and peppermint
Taking 10 deep belly breaths paired with a gentle yoga sequence
Cut off caffeine intake before 2 pm
Sleep in cooler temperatures between 60-65F
Electronics in the bedroom: why it’s necessary to turn off before you tuck in. www.sleepfoundation.org. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/ask-the-expert/electronics-the-bedroom. Accessed October 4, 2018.
Why electronics may stimulate you before bed. www.sleepfoundation.org. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/why-electronics-may-stimulate-you-bed. Accessed October 4, 2018.
How to unwind without technology. www.sleep.org. https://www.sleep.org/articles/unwind-without-technology/. Accessed October 9, 2018.
Leproult R, Cauter EV. Role of Sleep and Sleep Loss in Hormonal Release and Metabolism. Endocr Dev. 2010; 17: 11–21.
The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Hormones and Metabolism. www.medscape.org. https://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/502825. Accessed October 13, 2018.
Sleep disruptions. adrenal fatigue.org. https://adrenalfatigue.org/sleep-disruptions/. Accessed October 13, 2018.