It’s so tempting to get into the habit of watching your favourite TV programme before bed every night, but could it be having a negative impact on your sleep? There’s a lot of evidence that proves it can. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, television watching before bedtime can lead to sleep debt. Watching television disturbs your ability to sleep well for a number of reasons.
The first is a very simple one, the light. Exposure to darkness and light can determine whether you have a sound or awful night’s sleep. Electronics, such as computer games and televisions, give off a bright glow, which is exactly what your body doesn’t want before bed. It can trick your mind into believing it’s still daytime. The light from your TV goes through your retina into an area of your brain that manages sleep (the hypothalamus). This light can delay the release of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. A study found a 22% decrease in melatonin among people engaged with screens in the hours before bed.
All that science stuff might sound complicated, but in simple terms it just means the light from your TV will make it harder for you to fall asleep. The solution? Stop watching TV a few hours before you go to bed and turn down the lights.
Another reason why watching TV and catching up on the latest episode of your current favourite TV show can make sleep worse is the mental stimulation it provides. It’s likely that the latest tense and shocking episode of Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead may make you feel a bit tense and stressed, which makes it harder to relax and fall asleep.
The stress you feel sends your body into a fight or flight response, and the stress hormone, cortisol is released. If you absolutely must watch TV before bed, at least watching something that will chill you out.
The final reason why TV makes sleep worse is more lifestyle based. We get into habits of staying up late and watching TV, making it harder to drift off. A lot of people also use certain programmes or television viewing as a nightly ritual and cue to go to bed, instead of setting a reasonable bedtime. So in summary, there’s lots of things that you can do before bed to help you sleep, but watching TV for hours on end is not one of them. Reading a book before bed will help you sleep much better!