With the rising age of the internet and social media, electronic usage has become unavoidable for the majority of us. Nearly four hours spent online per day is the average time for 73% of Canadians. Checking our phones as soon as we wake up and right before bed is a daily routine for many of us. In fact, around 56% of Canadians have developed the habit of checking their phones as the last thing they do before they sleep.

In addition, the pandemic has greatly affected our electronic usage. The adjustment to social distancing and using electronics to communicate for work, school, or leisure has likely changed our daily or nighttime routines. With this in mind, it’s no surprise screen time levels are at an all time high. 

Make these screen use changes to get better sleep:

  • Reduce / eliminate all artificial bright light (ie. blue light from screens) for 2-3 hourse before bedtime.
  • Change your screen light to “night light” filter
  • Use audio-only apps on your phone (podcasts, music apps, meditation apps) to help with winding down relaxation and sleep.

Increased Risk of Insomnia

Using electronics at night has long been demonstrated to disrupt sleep quality and increase risk for developing insomnia. For one, making a habit of using your phone at night itself cuts into your sleep time. Information from your electronics, like emails, notifications, and other alerts provide ongoing stimulation for your brain, which increases your alertness. Blue light emissions from your screen have been shown to decrease tiredness and hinder healthy sleep cycles.

Blue light in particular may be more harmful to younger individuals, who nowadays are not unlikely to own a phone or electronic as young as the age of two. In fact, 39% of Canadian children aged two to six and 87% of those aged twelve to seventeen report that they use a mobile device.

Though electronic usage at night is generally not recommended due to the reasons listed above, there are exceptions. Sleep apps or meditation guides are a few examples of how electronics could potentially help improve sleep quality.

How Does Blue Light Affect Sleep Quality?

Blue light emissions have been shown to decrease melatonin secretion, the hormone that makes you sleepy. It also increases our body temperature and heart rate, which helps us stay awake during the day. Consequently, blue light exposure isn’t favourable right before bed. Blue light fools our brain into believing that we still need to stay awake at night, increasing risk for developing insomnia. 

How to Limit Blue-Light From Electronics

Limit screen time

Many of our devices come equipped with tools to minimize screen time. Access your device’s settings to track your screen time for each day of the week, your average screen time and which apps you use the most. These statistics make it easily known if you have a screen time problem and the root cause of it.

Both Android and Apple have numerous features and modes that limit screen time. You can set screen time and notification limits on specific apps, categories of apps, communication-centric apps and even all apps except the ones you choose to allow.   

Device Usage That Supports Sleep Quality

Although electronic use before bed is frowned upon if your goal is to get better sleep, not all cases apply. Many sleep-focused apps and built-in device sleep features have to be enabled before going to bed so there’s no avoiding screen time. Apps like Calm, Spotify, Slumber and Noisli aid in sleep quality for many Canadians rather than disrupting it.

As well, should you choose to use your device to support sleep, it likely is more beneficial to stick to audio only aids to ensure limited blue light exposure. If you plan to use your device before bed, ensure it’s for the benefit of your sleep rather than the detriment. 

A simpler approach to limit screen time is to turn off your device entirely, or even leave it in a different room. This way, there’s no need to download and test out numerous apps or navigate through pages of device settings. If you plan on trying this, remember to communicate it to your loved ones in case they need to reach you during the night. 

Change your screen light settings

Most newer electronics give you the option to change the lighting display on the screen. The night blue light filter is easily activated by checking the display settings on the device.

Some devices offer a timed activation feature, enabling a time-controlled filter that the user sets. This is helpful if you require usage of the electronic before bed as you can limit the amount of blue light emitted from your screen.  

It can be difficult to change habits and reduce electronics usage before bed. Be that as it may, there are ways to limit the unfavorable effects that screen time has on our sleep. As technology advances, so will the need to constantly address some of technology’s less desirable impact.

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