You’re lying awake in the middle of the night, trying to do the soothing breathing exercise your yoga teacher showed you, hopelessly unable to get back to sleep. Your phone is lying next to you, practically begging you to grab it. You think “I’ll just do a quick scroll, then I’ll be ready for bed.”
Hours of Tiktok later, the alarm clock is going off, your kid is asking for juice and your micro-managing boss has already sent you three emails. You got sucked into the screen, never fell back asleep and now it is morning.
Don’t let this be you! If you’re struggling to fall back asleep in the middle of the night, you may instinctively reach for your phone or computer. Think twice, urged clinical psychologist Michael J. Breus, a diplomat of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
“Your phone emits blue light which disrupts circadian rhythms and inhibits melatonin production,” Breus told HuffPost. “Also, your phone is a potential source of stress. You might inadvertently read a disturbing headline or see a text about a difficult situation at work. When you’re stressed, you will have more trouble getting back to sleep.”
As Breus explained, clicking around your phone or tablet can expose you to disruptive lights and potentially stressful content. He noted that playing a phone game or doing something really interactive on a screen can also keep you awake.
“Trying to get your new high score on Candy Crush is not exactly conducive to better rest,” he said. “When you are engaged in something or playing something, you certainly are not trying to fall asleep.”
Dr. Abhinav Singh, a medical review expert at the Sleep Foundation and medical director at the Indiana Sleep Center, said that interactive or engaging content on screens increases brain activity and makes it harder to fall back asleep. It also reminds you what time it is, which can make you even more stressed.
To help you sleep more restfully, Breus and Singh broke down the best things to use in the middle of the night when you can’t fall asleep.
A soothing noise machine with white noise and nature sounds
A real paper book
A pack of nightlights to put through the hallway
A comfortable chair to lounge in
A bluetooth sleep mask that blocks light and lets you listen to podcasts
LED-blocking stickers for all your devices
A time-less alarm clock that won’t stress you out
Blue light-blocking glasses if you simply must look at your phone