by Brittney Stefanic
The screen time struggle is real
I know, I know. It’s tough to imagine putting your phone down any earlier. You need it to stay connected to work, you want it to mindlessly scroll on social media while peacefully in bed, and you have a big time habit of taking it everywhere you go! I’m with ya, mama. 100%.
But, there is science here that we just can’t ignore. In addition to causing extra stress depending on the type of scrolling done at bedtime, the blue light that is emitted from our devices (phones, tablets, TVs) has been shown in recent studies to inhibit the production of melatonin.
Melatonin is the main sleep hormone, and we need plenty of it to fall asleep at bedtime and stay asleep through the night. Your phone use is actually biologically changing the production of the hormones being produced by your body... YIKES!
But, rather than lecture you about the negative impact that your device is likely having on your sleep habits, I wanted to share with you 4 tips for how to reduce your screen time for better sleep TONIGHT!
Tip 1: Power down hour
For starters, I recommend powering down your electronics at least one hour before bedtime. This may feel like a HUGE stretch for you, and it did for me too, but guess what? YOU HAVE DONE HARDER THINGS! I know you have. (Hmmmm… Birthing and raising a child comes to mind.)
I suggest you pick up a new (mindless book) to distract you from the fact that you aren’t checking your email or scrolling before bed. This shouldn’t be a work book, a parenting book or a meal-prepping book.
Think romantic beach read or something trending with book clubs! This new (or new to you) book should be a paper version so that you aren’t closing your Kindle App every few pages to “just check Facebook real quick”.
Tip 2: When you are up, keep it down
As for the wakeups that occur in the middle of the night to feed your hungry babe or get your toddler back into their bed, be sure to keep the phone (and lights) down.
I know how tempting it can be to pick up your device during your middle of the night cuddle session, but this will not only distract your sleepy little one, but it will stimulate your brain, as well. It will be easiest to get back to sleep after the wake up (for all involved parties) if you keep the lights low and screens off.
Remember, there will be plenty of time tomorrow for social media and Netflix… Keep the night time hours reserved for rest!
Tip 3: Create a sleep sanctuary
The room in which you sleep should be a relaxing and calming space. It should be free from distractions and things that induce anxiety or stress.
Your bedroom is, most likely, a place where you are doing a lot of your scrolling (either mindlessly or purposefully). We are going to change that and here's why...
In addition to causing extra stress depending on the type of scrolling done at bedtime, the blue light that is emitted from our devices (phones, tablets, TVs) has been shown in recent studies to inhibit the production of melatonin as mentioned above. That darn phone a stress inducer and a hormone inhibitor. It’s a powerful device, so get it out of your sleep sanctuary!
In order to minimize temptation from the addicting devices that seem to have a magnetic force, don’t your charge device(s) near your bedside. Consider setting up a “charging station” in your laundry room or home office to minimize the enticement that comes from having your device within reach.
You may be surprised how much a little physical distance can help. If your phone isn’t within an arms length, you will be less likely to pick it up out of habit! A few nights without it will start to create a new habit, which is what we are going for here.
Tip 4: Turn off your notifications
Take a few minutes to go into the settings on your device(s) and TURN OFF your notifications/alerts.
Here are a few of the "big hitters" that might be worth removing from your list:
- Social media (IG, FB, Twitter, Snapchat)
- Search apps (Google, Pinterest, Yahoo)
- Messaging (Texts, FB Messenger, WhatsApp)
And if you are feeling REALLY motivated (or needing some more restrictions to get started), try removing the most time consuming apps from your phone or tablet and just using full-site mode when on your laptop or desktop.
This is one of those "out of sight, out of mind" exercises. If that little red alert isn't popping up so much, you will be MUCH LESS LIKELY to open the apps unnecessarily.
If you are wondering how this will help, don’t worry too much, I’ve gotcha covered. As a certified whole-family (included sleepy parents just like you) sleep consultant, I’ve checked into the psychology and biology behind device addiction and how notifications actually impact the dopamine production in our brain, but I won't bore you with that science... #nerdalert.
The bottom line is that turning off your notifications puts you back in control of your device use. You get on it when you want it, rather than anytime something dings (sending a signal to your brain that you NEED IT).
You’ve got this!
Making change is hard, but with these tips, better sleep (and less screen time) is definitely within your reach! Making these small changes will allow you to feel more rested and less absorbed by the addictive little devices that we all love so much.
Brittney Stefanic is a certified whole-family sleep consultant working with ages newborn through adult. She knows from personal experience that screen time can have a very negative impact on sleep! As an educator, Brittney believes in the power of teaching and loves supporting families in meeting their sleep goals through her customized sleep plans. You can follow her on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook @brittneystefanicsleep for access to her free sleep tips and tricks and opportunities for sleep virtual Q&A sessions.
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