Screen abstinence

The bottom line

There’s no single “treatment” for sleep issues that’s more effective than screen abstinence. These screens include TVs, smartphones, computers, and tablets.

That doesn’t mean everyone can benefit (like those of you who don’t use screens at night!), but this is a free treatment that’s easy enough to try for a few days. The hardest part, though, is making it a nightly habit.

Why is screen abstinence so useful for sleep issues?

There are actually several different reasons that looking at screens interrupts sleep:

  1. The blue light part of the visible light spectrum stops your pituitary gland from producing melatonin. You need melatonin for quality sleep.

  2. Looking at screens usually involves web browsing, social media, or watching video. All three of these are mentally and visually stimulating, and can cause you to have racing thoughts before bed.

  3. People lose track of time easily, when browsing the web or watching videos. This can make “I’ll be off my phone in five minutes!” turn into “Oh man it’s been almost an hour … how did that happen?”.

Tips for screen abstinence

The most important step is realizing you have a problem. That sounds pretty heavy handed, like screens are some kind of drug, and it’s hard to realize that they’re addicted.

Which is actually kind of true.

As long as you’re not satisfied with your screen use in the couple hours before bed, and you admit it to yourself, you can start working on changing your habits.

First, survey your options. Basically, they range from cold turkey abstinence to maintaining your current screen use, but employing blue-light blocking glasses, blue-light dimming software (like f.lux or the options built into iphones), amber bulbs, or filters to lessen your blue light exposure.

Next, think of some things to occupy your time instead of screens. Some popular ones include listening to music, listening to an audiobook, talking with your partner (gasp!), sexy times with your partner (double gasp!), or reading a physical book or ebook reader by dim light.