More Screen Time, Less Sleep Time?

looking at phone while in bed

You wouldn’t think that a biography of 19th president Rutherford B. Hayes would keep one up at night. In truth, it was one of the reasons I was reading said biography. Can’t sleep? Rutherford B. Hayes’ mixed record on reconstruction will knock you right out.

But there I was, still reading—an hour after I’d intended to stop.

I don’t blame it on President Hayes. Just looking at the man’s picture could put most people to sleep.

You’re getting sleepy …

I blame it on the screen.

I was reading the book on my iPad. It’s a convenient way to read. But the thing is, backlit devices like phones, tablets and computers can mess with your melatonin production, and that can mess with your sleep.

Apple has an automatic “Night Shift” feature that helps mitigate the impact of backlighting somewhat. But for many of us, that’s just the beginning of our bedtime issues with screens. And screens can be particularly problematic for already sleep-deprived teens.

Most youth would rather lose a kidney than lose their smartphones, and that’s not much of an exaggeration. Smartphones are an indispensable, inescapable part of many of their lives. A recent Common Sense Media study found that more teens prefer texting than talking with someone face -to-face. Add to that the constant pull of our myriad social networks—all primarily accessed via smartphone—and the gentle ping you receive announcing a new text or post, and you’re looking at a device almost designed to keep them awake.

In fact, another study found that 68% of teens bring their phones to bed with them—and that a third fall asleep with them. They wake up with them, too—all throughout the night. In fact, 36% of teens say they wake up to check their phones at least once a night. They’re not seeing what time it is: They’re checking posts and text messages.

The solution to getting a good night’s sleep without screens interfering? Some experts say it’s simple: Don’t sleep with your phones, and don’t let your kids sleep with them, either. Easier said than done, I realize. But pediatricians encourage setting some strict screen time limits, and cutting off screen time at least an hour before going to bed. Many suggest putting the phone away—like, far away—when it’s time for bed, even perhaps keeping it in another room. That might seem difficult to do if the user’s phone serves as an alarm clock, too. But if the temptation is just too great, investing in a regular ol’ clock radio might be worth it.

And if you or your teen is still struggling to fall asleep at night, let me suggest reading about the career of Rutherford B. Hayes … as long as that career’s written out on paper.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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