Put the phone down: Electronic light detrimental to sleep

We have all been told at some point or another to stop staring at our TV or computer screens, to put away our cellphones and look at people or the sky. Usually it was our parents, followed by a “because I said so” look. But were those screens really harmful?

According to a recent study, the light emitted from cellphone, computer and TV screens actually can be detrimental to those trying to fall asleep. “We know from previous work that light from screens in the evening alters sleepiness and alertness, and suppresses melatonin levels,” said Dr. Anne-Marie Chang, a neuroscientist and co-author of the report, which was conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass.

Because the light from such electronic devices stimulates the brain and suppresses melatonin levels—a hormone that promotes sleep—it makes it more difficult for the brain and the rest of the body to relax and fall asleep. For busy people who need every bit of sleep they can get—like college students—the results from this study should be taken seriously.

We The Threefold Advocate encourage you to be aware of how much time you spend on an electronic device, especially in the hour before you go to sleep. U.S. News & World Report says people should set an “electronic curfew” an hour before bed to let themselves relax.

Staring at screens for too long can also cause computer vision syndrome. The stress put on eye muscles by focusing on words or images on a screen for too long can cause injury, similar to how carpal tunnel syndrome can affect your hands. The repeated stress gets worse as people age, but it is recommended that you look away from the screen every 20 minutes and glance around the room or outside to rest your eyes.

Besides the potential sleep benefits of spending less time in front of a screen, it also allows you to spend more time on that recreational reading you’ve been promising to get to. Or you could go outside and enjoy the beauty of the Ozarks on a nice day instead of aimlessly scrolling through Twitter, or call your grandmother like you’ve been meaning to do.

We The Threefold believe it is important to spend time with people—either hanging out with friends at Devil’s Den or calling your family to chat—rather than spending all your free time staring at pictures of people or nature on Pinterest. Even when you are doing something truly important on your device, it is important to get up, walk around or look out a window for a bit.