I Gave Up Screens Before Bed, and It Was a Game Changer

Youíve probably heard that screen time can affect sleep quality. But what happens when bedtime rolls around? We still wind down by watching Netflix or scrolling through our phones. Iím as guilty of this as anyone, so I challenged myself to cut out screen use starting two hours before bed for two full weeks. And the results were not what I expected.

How gadgets are keeping you awake

woman watching tablet in bed

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 90 percent of Americans use a tech gadget within an hour of their bedtime, stimulating the brain and exposing the body to blue light. This, in turn, ďdelays your bodyís internal clock (a.k.a., your circadian rhythm), suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and makes it more difficult to fall asleep.Ē

Light is what keeps our body clocks ticking correctly. And research shows that blue light tends to be a powerful suppressor of melatonin, compared to other wavelengths, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Not only does a lower melatonin level delay sleep, but it also might be associated with diseases, including cancer ó further inspiration to limit screen use.

Besides light exposure, tech gadgets also have the ability to keep our brains alert when we should be unwinding from the day. Maybe you watched an exciting TV show before bed and couldnít stop thinking about it. Or you read a concerning email from your boss. Regardless of whatís on the screen, itís likely stealing precious minutes of sleep from you. And thatís what inspired my no-screen challenge.

The challenge

a computer sits open on a bed in a dark room

The mission: Give up all screens: TV, computer, phone, etc. ó starting two hours before bed for two full weeks. No cheating allowed. I could do whatever I wanted during that time, as long as it didnít involve screens.

The results

A woman stretches in bed as sun comes through the window.

My evenings changed

Iím not exactly a TV junkie, but I have it on most nights for entertainment. I was fine skipping the shows I usually watch for the sake of my challenge. But I didnít want to miss some live sports, so I turned to the radio to listen to games. I do that from time to time anyway when Iím not by a television, but it still was strange to sit and listen to a game when I couldíve easily watched it on TV.

On other nights, I got some chores done that I normally would have left for the weekend. I played extra with my dogs (who didnít understand why we werenít curled up on the couch watching TV). And I read a lot. It all reminded me that I could be doing so much more with my evenings besides being glued to a screen.

Bedtime became earlier

During this challenge, there was no Netflix button enticing me to watch just one more show (or four more ó who am I kidding?) before bed. I managed to fill my evenings, but I still was ready to go to sleep a lot sooner than when I had endless entertainment on screens.

So bedtime became earlier. I started getting ready for bed roughly a half hour to an hour before I normally would, and I still woke up at the same time each morning. That meant I got a few extra minutes of sleep ó likely better quality sleep ó that my body gladly accepted. Even my dogs, who know when Iím two minutes late to feed them, didnít seem to mind the adjustment.

I couldnít fall asleep ó at first

I typically would do one last completely unnecessary scroll through my phone before falling asleep. I never felt like that kept me awake, though the blue light studies would disagree. If anything, aimlessly wandering on my phone seemed to numb my mind enough to lull me to sleep. But with it tucked away two hours prior to bedtime, I was utterly bored as I waited for sleep.

Then, things changed. The longer I avoided screens at night, the quicker I seemed to fall asleep when I finally hit the pillow. I didnít need to use my phone as a boredom buster. In fact, I was lucky if I made it through a few pages of a book before sailing off to dreamland.

My relationship with screens now

So am I a no-screen convert? Not so fast. I honestly didn’t think I’d see much of a difference from this challenge, so the results were a pleasant surprise. The experience has shown me that by simply cutting out a little bit of gratuitous screen use, Iíll sleep better and have more variety in my life.

But now that Iíve completed the challenge, I donít plan on entirely depriving myself of screen time every night. I wonít turn on the TV out of habit, but I will watch it some nights. (After all, itís almost hockey season.) Iíll keep my phone out of reach but allow myself a few glances at it. (But sorry if I don’t text you back until morning.) As is true of most things in life, it’s all about moderation.

Main image credit: OcusFocus/Thinkstock

27 comments

Elizabeth M
Past Member 2 months ago

thanks for this! Noted

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Krzysztof J
Krzysztof J2 months ago

Ty

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Danuta W
Danuta Watola2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Janet B
Janet B2 months ago

Thanks

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Sonia M

Thanks for sharing

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Amanda M
Amanda McConnell2 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Amanda M
Amanda McConnell2 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Amanda M
Amanda McConnell2 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Amanda M
Amanda McConnell2 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Amanda M
Amanda McConnell2 months ago

thanks for sharing

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