8 Ways Reducing Screen Time Can Lead to Better Sleep

May 21, 2024
Diane Almanzor

Getting enough good sleep is key for our health and wellbeing. But let's face it, many of us are glued to our screens—TV, smartphones, tablets, and computers—right up until we hit the sack. The blue light from these devices can mess with our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.

Staring at screens before bed makes it harder to fall asleep because the content and lights are so stimulating. The blue light from screens delays the release of melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep. This tricks our brains into thinking it's still daytime, making us feel more awake instead of sleepy.

Not getting enough sleep or having poor quality sleep can really mess us up. It's linked to health issues like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Plus, it affects our brain function and mental health. We might experience brain fog, lack of focus, irritability, anxiety, and even depression after nights of bad sleep.

The good news is there are things we can do to cut down on screen time before bed and get better sleep. Here are some ways to help you limit screen time at night and set yourself up for a good night's rest.

1. Turn Off Notifications

Notifications are a major reason we keep getting drawn back to our phones before bed. Every ping and buzz pulls our attention away from winding down and back to the digital world.

Even if you put your phone away, hearing notifications from another room or seeing the light flash can make your brain think there’s something urgent to check. This keeps your mind active and makes it harder to relax and fall asleep.

The fix is easy—turn off all notifications during your pre-bedtime hours. Just go into your settings and disable notifications for apps and accounts so they don’t pop up on your lock screen.

You might worry about missing something important, but most notifications can wait until morning. Prioritize getting better sleep over staying updated with your phone. Turning off notifications removes the temptation to check your phone and helps your mind relax.

2. No Phones in the Bedroom

Keeping your phone and other gadgets out of the bedroom is a game-changer for cutting down on screen time before bed. When your phone is nearby, it’s way too tempting to check one last email, scroll through social media, or get sidetracked by random notifications. Even just seeing your phone light up can mess with your sleep.

To really unwind at night, leave all your devices—phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, and TVs—outside the bedroom. Try setting up a charging station in another room so your gadgets don’t even make it into the bedroom.

This simple change takes away the temptation and helps your brain associate the bedroom with sleep, not stimulation. Instead, establish a calming pre-bed routine like reading a book or listening to music.

Without the lure of the screen, you’ll find yourself falling asleep faster. Removing devices from the bedroom boosts sleep quality and helps you get those recommended 7-9 hours of sleep. You’ll wake up feeling well-rested and ready to tackle the day.

3. Set a Bedtime Phone Cutoff

Studies show that using your phone before bed can seriously mess with your sleep. One study found that reading on a device before bed delayed sleep by nearly an hour compared to reading a printed book. Plus, people who used devices had lower melatonin levels, took longer to fall asleep, and felt less alert the next morning.

To get better sleep, set a strict phone cutoff time in the evening—30-60 minutes before bed is ideal. When the time comes, switch your phone to Do Not Disturb mode so you won't be tempted by notifications. Charge your phone outside the bedroom to avoid the temptation of late-night scrolling.

By sticking to a consistent phone cutoff time, you'll train your brain to get ready for sleep. Over time, you'll find it easier to fall asleep without the screen time stimulation right before bed.

4. Try Reading Before Bed

Reading a book or magazine before bedtime is a great way to unwind and get ready for sleep. Unlike the blue light from phones and computers that keeps your brain alert, reading from a paper book helps calm your mind.

Studies show that just 6-7 minutes of reading print material can reduce stress levels by 68%. Getting lost in a good book can take your mind off the day's worries and ease any anxious thoughts.

Choose a genre that you find calming and enjoyable. Avoid thrillers or page-turners that will keep you awake. The goal is to relax your brain, not get it buzzing with excitement. Stick with a paper book instead of an e-reader to avoid blue light exposure.

Keep your book and a bookmark on your bedside table so you can easily pick up where you left off. Swapping your phone for a book before bed can help you relax and improve your sleep quality. 

5. Listen to Calming Music

Listening to soothing music can really help you drift off by lowering your heart rate and relaxing your body and mind. The trick is to find tunes that are calming without being too stimulating. Here are some great options to try:

  • Classical Music: Slower pieces by composers like Chopin, Debussy, or Mozart can be really relaxing. The slower tempo helps to ease your mind.
  • Nature Sounds: Recordings of ocean waves, rainfall, or other nature sounds make for peaceful background noise that's perfect for falling asleep.
  • White Noise: A steady, unobtrusive white noise can block out other distracting sounds and help you relax.
  • Guided Meditations: Look for bedtime meditations that guide you through calming visualizations to clear your mind before sleep.
  • Ambient Music: This subgenre of electronica features mellow tunes without lyrics that are great for winding down.

Try making a calming playlist and set it to play for about an hour as you get ready for bed. Let the peaceful music melt away your stress and help your body switch into sleep mode. 

It's best to avoid songs with lyrics right before bed, as the words can stick in your head and keep you awake. Stick to instrumental music that promotes relaxation instead of stimulation.

6. Keep Devices Out of Reach

One of the easiest ways to cut down on nighttime phone use is to keep your devices out of arm's reach. When your smartphone is right next to your bed, it’s so tempting to check notifications, scroll through social media, or browse the internet late at night. This keeps your brain active and makes it harder to fall asleep.

Instead, try charging your phone across the room or in another part of the house, like the living room or kitchen. This small change makes it inconvenient to grab your phone if you wake up in the middle of the night. You’ll be less likely to waste time on your phone if you have to get out of bed and walk to another room.

Charging your devices away from your bedroom helps remove the temptation to use them before bed. It also creates a clear boundary between your sleep space and tech use. This separation signals to your brain that it’s time to wind down, relax, and get ready for sleep.

7. Dim the Lights

Bright lights from screens can mess with your melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Blue light from phones and tablets is especially bad for this.

To get better sleep, try dimming the lights in your bedroom 1-2 hours before bedtime. Use lamps with warm bulbs instead of harsh overhead lights. Blackout curtains or an eye mask can help block out extra light. Adjust the brightness on your devices, switch to night mode to cut down on blue light.

Keeping lights low helps your body produce melatonin, making you feel sleepy. Reducing light from screens also signals your brain that it's time to wind down. Dim lighting sets your body's internal clock, helping you get better quality sleep.

8. Avoid Stressful Content Before Bed

It's super important to steer clear of emotional or stressful content in the hour before bedtime. Stuff like news headlines, dramatic shows, or heated social media debates can really jack up your stress levels and get your brain buzzing, making it way harder to relax and fall asleep.

Instead, try to avoid anything that might get your mind racing. Go for neutral or positive content. Maybe listen to a calming audiobook or podcast, watch something light and funny, or read an inspiring book. Meditating, reflecting on your day, or journaling can also help clear your mind before bed.

Stress and anxiety are some of the biggest sleep disruptors. Give your body and brain a chance to chill out before bed by avoiding anything too intense or stressful. This will help you get more restful and uninterrupted sleep.

Improve Your Sleep by Limiting Screen Time

Cutting down on screen time before bed can make a huge difference in how quickly you fall asleep and the quality of your sleep. 

Simple changes like turning off notifications, keeping phones out of the bedroom, setting a strict phone cutoff time, reading a book, listening to calming music, dimming the lights, and avoiding stressful content in the evening can do wonders for your sleep hygiene. Your mind and body need a break from screens to unwind properly at the end of the day.

Making small, gradual changes to reduce screen time can lead to big improvements in your sleep over time. It might be tough at first, but the benefits are totally worth it. Better sleep means better mood, productivity, and overall health.

For families, cutting down on screen time and using technology more intentionally has even more benefits. Aro offers a unique solution for families looking to reduce screen time and spend more quality time together. 

The Aro app and physical box provide reminders, tracking, goals, and rewards to make it easy for everyone to put down their devices. With Aro's help, families can align their actions with their intentions, model healthy tech habits for kids, get better sleep, and be fully present in the moments that matter most.

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