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Life Hack: How to Get Better Sleep

Do you have a hard time falling asleep at night? If so, you’re not alone; it’s one of the most common reasons people seek medical help. Today, we offer a little life hack for giving yourself the best chance at falling off to a lovely sleep, quickly and effortlessly. Are you ready? Here it is: cut out screen time in the evenings.

Your internalized gasp is almost audible, but this isn’t just your doctor trying to take away all the fun! There’s a reason why screen time can be so hard on our sleep cycles. It all comes back to melatonin, our sleep hormone. (Don’t get melatonin confused with melanin, the pigment that determines our skin color—totally different thing.)

Melatonin is a neurotransmitter. When it works properly, it helps quiet our brain enough to fall asleep. Our brains start making melatonin when our environment gets dark, like at night. Screens emit a particular type of light that disrupts the natural production of melatonin (compact fluorescent light bulbs do too, by the way). So, from a purely physiological perspective, avoiding screens for an hour before bedtime can give your body a chance to produce the melatonin you need to get to sleep.

This of course doesn’t take into account the content on the screens, such as emotionally disruptive scenes, late-night work, or FOMO feelings brought up by social media.[1] In fact, there is a definitive link between night time social media use, disrupted sleep and anxiety in kids.[2] While most of the research focuses on children and screen time, one can reason that this phenomenon is likely happening for adults too. So why not cut out the end-of-day screen time?

Here are a few great ways to help your body be ready for sleep:

  • Avoid caffeine late in the day
  • Enjoy quiet time, reflection or meditation before bed
  • Sleep in total darkness, or wear something over your eyes at night
  • Go to bed at the same time every night
  • Avoid screen time for an hour before bed

These are great places to start, but if you want a more individualized plan, or if you need extra support, be sure to schedule an appointment today!

[1] Glover J, Fritsch SL. #KidsAnxiety and Social Media: A Review. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2018;27(2):171-182.

[2] Hale L, Kirschen GW, Lebourgeois MK, et al. Youth Screen Media Habits and Sleep: Sleep-Friendly Screen Behavior Recommendations for Clinicians, Educators, and Parents. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2018;27(2):229-245.