Does Watching TV Affect Your Sleep?
The vast majority of people walk around in a state that can be described as ‘wired but tired’. People nowadays are so wrapped up in doing one thing after the next. They are constantly juggling multiple tasks at once and are always on the move. Basically, people are constantly alert, jittery, and focused. They spend all day focusing at work, the chores at home, their friends, social events, et cetera. However, the vast majority of this focus is done on some sort of screen. It may be a computer screen, mobile screen, or a tablet screen. Whatever the source, people today spend at least three or four hours a day looking at a screen. For those with desk jobs, it is even higher, roughly eight to ten hours a day!
Due to all of this focus, and the go, go, go, mentality, people find it very difficult to relax. It can be difficult to turn everything off and simply ‘hang out’ for a while. This desire to be connected and in front of a screen is like an addiction that causes people to feel a sense of purpose. They feel connected to the world. It stimulates them. Because it is stimulating, it can also make people feel very stressed and burned out. It is almost like people today are robotic zombies that are being kept alive on pure caffeine and technology. They are unable to sleep and their minds are always racing, thinking about what they need to do next.
The problem is that many people don’t recognize this. They don’t understand why they are so tired. They don’t know why the coffee isn’t doing it for them anymore and they had to switch to energy drinks. Then they wonder why they can’t seem to fall asleep when they try to go to bed. In general, people find it very difficult to make the transition from constant technology and connectedness to absolutely nothing. As a result, sleeping can become very difficult. How can this problem be fixed?
Well, luckily for you, it is really a very simple solution. You need to decide each night when you are going to go to sleep. If you come home from work and have things to do, go ahead and do them. Keep that go, go, go, mentality and get things done. Then, at some point in the evening, you will need to relax. Kick back and do something you enjoy that is relaxing. You need to wind down. Many people love to watch TV to relax. That is fine, however, you shouldn’t watch TV right before bed, especially if you’ve been staring at different screens all day. If you’ve spent all day working at the computer and you can’t switch off, as a result, the last thing you want to do is to then come home and watch another screen. That’s right: I’m talking about the TV and it’s time you cut back!
You need to have at least an hour before bed with absolutely no screen time. This is why it is important to decide when you will be going to bed. It doesn’t need to be the same time every night, but it would be a good idea. The hour immediately before bed needs to be completely free of screen time. Power off your phone, turn off the computer, tablet, TV, et cetera. In addition, it would greatly help you to have a bedtime routine. For example, before bed, you brush your teeth, floss, change your clothes, prepare your lunch for tomorrow, et cetera. These need to be simple and small tasks that you do each and every night. This is very important; each night they must be the same. That way, your body will become accustomed to the routine and will automatically begin winding down.
The Problem With TV
Watching TV requires a lot of mental energy and focus. You need to pay attention in order to know what is going on in the program. This can be a huge problem when you are trying to wind down for the evening because this focus will cause you to experience a stress response; very similar to the one that is experienced when you are working, or doing anything else that requires a lot of focus. TV is a moving image that tricks your brain into thinking that something important is happening. It is as though your brain thinks it is a real-life event. Your brain prepares you in chemically the same way, whether it is on TV or in real life. When you watch TV, your brain produces dopamine and norepinephrine and, as a result, you end up fixed to the screen.
At the same time, the screen itself also increases cortisol. When you watch TV, the light that gets produced is very similar to the light created by the sun. As such, your brain thinks that it is daytime and prevents you from feeling sleepy later on. In essence, you are given a neurochemical cocktail of energy, and the light stimulates your brain. Therefore your body is now energized because it has an increased chemical dosage and believes that it is daytime. Therefore, when you watch TV immediately before trying to go to sleep, falling asleep can be very difficult. This is why it is extremely important to avoid TV, or any screen, before going to bed.
In case you need another reason. TV prevents you from talking with your family and interacting with those around you. It also occupies your mind and thus prevents your mind from thinking. Forget the TV and allow your mind to wander for a while. See what adventures your own brain can take you on, instead of relying on the adventures of someone else. Now don’t misinterpret this. You can still watch TV, however, it cannot be immediately before you decide to go to sleep. Remember to allow at least an hour of time with no screens before going to bed. Therefore, you can watch TV, but try to avoid the kind of ‘mindless’ TV watching that you really don’t need. Watch TV because you want to watch TV. Make it into an event with friends or family. Don’t watch TV simply for the sake of watching TV!
In order for you to improve your sleep, you need to set a bedtime for yourself each day. That means to decide, roughly, when it is that you will go to bed that night. It doesn’t need to be the same every day, but it would help. You also need to establish a bedtime routine. This needs to be the same each night, as it will help your body wind down and prepare for bed. You also need to shut off all screens at least an hour before going to bed. Allow your brain to wind down. There are many things that you can do to relax that don’t involve a screen. Finally, avoid watching TV simply for the sake of watching TV. Watch it as a social event, or because there is really something that you want to watch, not simply because it is there. Follow these steps and you will be well on your way to a much better night’s sleep!
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