It’s no secret that many of us aren’t getting enough sleep. Whether it’s endless to-do lists, late work hours or early wake-ups to hop on the Bike before sunrise, eight hours of sleep often feels out of reach. But apart from life getting in the way of our time spent in bed, there’s something else holding us back from a restful night: our screens. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 90% of people in the US use an electronic device in the hour before bed, and that can be a big problem when it comes to catching zzz’s. “Using TVs, tablets, smartphones, laptops, or other electronic devices before bed delays your body’s internal clock (a.k.a., your circadian rhythm), suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and makes it more difficult to fall asleep,” they explain. To help us sidestep this modern sleep-sapper, we asked sleep expert W. Chris Winter, M.D., author of The Sleep Solution, for his best tips on reducing screen time before bed.
Make A Plan
“Have a game plan for what you’re going to watch,” suggests Dr. Winter. Before you climb under the covers, tell yourself that it’s one episode of your favorite Netflix show or an hour of House Hunters before the TV goes off or your tablet goes in the drawer. “Flipping around for something to watch is a recipe for disaster,” laughs Dr. Winter. “Because Goodfellas is starting on some channel, and you’re about to stumble upon it and could lose your chances of a good night’s sleep.”
Enlist Your Partner
If you’re sharing the sheets with a significant other, make them an ally in your pursuit of a restful night. “Discuss your sleep expectations with your partner and support each other in your quest to not stay up too late,” says Dr. Winter. And if you’re sleeping solo, have a friend text or call you at an appointed time each night to make sure you’re shutting down and hitting the hay.
Kill the Lights
Make the blue light from your screen the only light in the room. “It’s hard to stay awake when the room is really dark,” says Dr. Winter, of why you should turn off all the lights before bed. Indeed, a mostly dark room may be enough to alert your body clock that it’s time to go to sleep. Another way to jumpstart melatonin production: Put on a pair of blue light-blocking glasses an hour or two before bedtime and keep them on until your head hits the pillow.
Opt for Old-Fashioned Entertainment
Instead of scrolling through social media, binging a TV show or playing a video game, pick up a book, encourages Dr. Winter. Let a novel transport you to another place and time or a memoir enlighten and inspire you. With a book, you’ll avoid sleep-sapping blue light all together, upping your chances of a restful night’s sleep.
Plan Your Workouts Accordingly
Your Peloton helps you work out more regularly, which helps you sleep better, but if you’re an evening exerciser, that’s another dose of screen time at the end of your day. Luckily, your sleep goals and workouts are totally compatible, since a cooldown after exercising is key to good sleep as well. “Finishing a hard workout, showering and going right to sleep without cooling down is not ideal,” says Peloton instructor Andy Speer. Make sure you build in enough time post-sweat to step away and let your brain and body wind down.