Electronic media is not your friend when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, especially if it’s used in the hours close to bedtime. This is partly due to the physiological effects of the “blue light” of the screen, which impacts the brain’s production of melatonin, delaying the onset of sleep. In one study, for example, people reading on an e-reader at night, compared to those reading a print book, experienced delayed melatonin release, took longer to fall asleep, and felt less rested the next day.
In addition, we have probably all experienced the “quick check” of our phones or computers that inadvertently leads to many unplanned minutes (or hours) of use. When this happens at night, we lose sleep. It’s also increasingly common for people to sleep with their phones nearby, which means that calls and texts can awaken them. Add to all this the likelihood that the emotional tone of media engagement will be stimulating or stressful (work emails, news reports, social comparison on Facebook…), and you have a perfect recipe for sleep disruption.
“Breaking away from media allowed me to be more empathetic to not only my own struggles but to others’ as well”
―A student on a media detox
For all these reasons, many experts are suggesting that we avoid screens in the hours leading up to bedtime as a matter of basic self-care. Sleep is one of the single most important foundations of physical and mental health. The impact on sleep alone would be more than enough reason to undertake a media fast. But there is more.