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Before bed, it's recommended that you set aside some time for winding down without screens. This helps your body prepare for sleep and get the most restful night possible. How much is screen time recommended before bed?
If you're like most people, you probably spend a good portion of your day looking at screens. You might start your day by checking your phone for notifications as soon as you wake up, then spend a couple of hours browsing social media, reading the news, or watching videos. At work, you're in front of a computer screen all day, and when you get home in the evening, you might watch TV or play video games. Even if you're sleeping, there's a good chance you'll put your phone under your pillow in case of notification during the night.
While there's nothing wrong with using screens during the day, too much screen time before bed can interfere with your sleep. The blue light from the screens may interfere with your body's natural sleep-wake cycle and make it more difficult to fall asleep at night.
So, it's no surprise that one of the most common questions we get asked is: how much screen time should you have before bed?
Part 1: What's The Recommended Screen Time Before Bed?
The answer to this question depends on a few factors, including your age, sleep habits, and whether you're using screens for work or leisure. For adults, according to the National Sleep Foundation, turning off or not using electronic equipment at least one hour before going to bed is part of a healthy bedtime routine. This means no more checking your work email before you turn in for the night or scrolling through social media in bed. If you can, try to avoid using screens altogether in the hour leading up to sleep.
If you're a parent with kids or teens, you might wonder how much screen time before bed is appropriate for them. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children and adolescents not use screens for more than one hour at a time and should avoid using screens for at least 30 minutes before bed.
While the AAP's recommendations are based on research that shows the adverse effects of too much screen time on kids' sleep, there's no hard and fast rule about how much is too much. Every child is different, so it's important to experiment to see what works best for your family.
Part 2: How Can Screen Time Hurt Your Sleep?
Now that you know how much screen time before bed is generally recommended let's look at how it can disrupt your sleep.
While the jury is still out on exactly how screens affect our sleep, there are a few theories. One is that the blue light produced by screens inhibits melatonin production, the hormone that makes us sleepy. This is why many experts recommend avoiding screens for at least an hour before bedtime. Another theory is that the mental stimulation from screen time can make it harder to fall asleep.
If you find yourself lying in bed staring at the ceiling after using your phone or watching TV, it might be time to cut back on screen time before bed. However, there's also the possibility that simply having a screen in your bedroom can disrupt your sleep. If you use your phone in bed, for example, you might start to associate your bed with being awake and looking at a screen. This can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
Blue light has been shown to lower the amount of time you spend in slow-wave and rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep—these two phases of the sleep cycle are essential for cognitive function and memory.
Children are particularly susceptible to sleep difficulties related to blue light produced by electronics. Several studies have linked using technologies with screens before bedtime to increased sleep latency, or the time it takes someone to fall asleep. Children who use these gadgets at night are also less likely to get enough good sleep and are more likely to be fatigued the next day.
Flickering or incandescent home lights and certain household lighting styles have also been linked to circadian rhythm disruption. For example, bright bedroom lighting was found in one research to reduce nocturnal melatonin production by up to 90 minutes when compared to dimly lit conditions.
If you like to read on the bed or e-readers like Kindle, you may be disappointed to know that even these devices emit blue light, but not like the bright screens of phones and laptops. So, if you like using an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook, dim the screen as far as possible.
Part 3: Why Screen Time Hurt Your Eye Even Worse Before Bed?
Now that it's clear that blue light disrupts our sleep, we need to know how this affects our eyes. The blue light waves emitted by screens are the shortest and highest-energy visible light waves. This means that they can penetrate deeply into the eye and cause damage to the retina, the sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye. Exposure to blue light has been linked to age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older adults. It can also cause digital eye strain, a condition characterized by dry, irritated eyes and headaches.
If you spend a lot of time looking at screens, it's essential to take breaks every 20 minutes or so and to look away from the screen for 20 seconds at a time. You should also try to blink more often to keep your eyes from getting too dry.
If you wear contact lenses, you might be especially susceptible to digital eye strain. This is because contacts can absorb some of the blue light that hits your eyes, magnifying its effects. If you wear contacts and spend a lot of time looking at screens, talk to your eye doctor about special lenses that can help protect your eyes from blue light.
Here are some articles about how to protect kids' eyes:
Part 4: How To Say No To Screen Time Before Bed?
The best way to avoid the negative effects of blue light is to cut back on-screen time before bed. However, if you can't avoid screens altogether, you can do a few things to minimize your exposure to blue light.
1. Dim your screen devices:
If you can't avoid screens altogether, you can do a few things to minimize your exposure to blue light. One way is to dim your screen devices. You can do this on your phone by going into the settings and turning down the brightness.
2. Lock your phone away:
Another way to reduce your exposure to blue light is to lock your phone away in another room. This way, you won't be tempted to use it in bed.
3. Replace social media time with books:
If you're spending too much time on social media before bed, try replacing that time with reading books. Reading has been shown to help promote sleep.
4. Ask your family to supervise:
If you have young children, you can ask your family to help you limit your screen time before bed. They can do this by ensuring you're not using devices during certain times of the day or night.
5. Use the screen time limit app - FamiSafe:
If you find that you can't resist using your phone or other screen devices before bed, you can try using a screen time limit app. These apps allow you to set a time limit for how long you can use a device daily. Once the time limit is up, the app will lock the device so you can't use it anymore. If you've kids, you can use parental control app like FamiSafe to set screen time limits for them.
When should screen time end before bed?
Ideally, no screen time should happen in the hours leading up to bed. However, if you must use screens in the evening, ensure they are turned off at least one hour before sleep. Exposure to blue light from screens can interfere with your body's natural melatonin production, disrupting your sleep cycle.
Is 7 hours of screen time healthy?
That's a difficult question to answer because there is no one-size-fits-all answer. For some people, 7 hours of screen time might be fine, but it might be too much for others. The best way to find out is to experiment and see how you feel after spending that amount of time in front of a screen. We recommend 2 hours or less of screen time per day, but ultimately it's up to you to decide what's best for your health.
Is it better to watch TV or be on your phone before bed?
Exposure to artificial light might mess with your circadian rhythm and melatonin levels. You are more likely to get a better night's sleep if you avoid screens for an hour or two before bed. Consider reading a book or taking a bath instead.
Why should you avoid screens before bed?
Looking at screens before bed can disrupt your sleep cycle because the blue light emitted by screens can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall asleep. Additionally, exposure to light from screens can keep you awake and make it harder to fall asleep later on.
How much screen time should a 15-year-old get?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and adolescents get no more than two hours of screen time per day.
So, there you have it. These are a few ways to reduce exposure to blue light before bed. Limiting your screen time before bed is an excellent way to improve your sleep and protect your eyes. Try these tips and see how they work for you.