S1:E13 | Should you worry about screen time before bed? My perspective

podcast season 1 wind down wind down time
Should you worry about screen time before bed? My perspective podcast

Should you worry about using screens before bed?

Can you watch TV, use your phone, read on a device and still sleep well?

What is the aspect of our screen time that I believe matters more than the blue light?

We will cover all of this and more on todays episode. 


Hello and welcome to the sleep seekers podcast, I’m your host, Emma Ashford. 


Today I’m going to be addressing the issue of using screens before bedtime which is part of this wind down season on the podcast but it is also a question I get asked about a lot! 

Reducing screen time or not using screens at all before bed tends to be the thing that people do the most and then think that this is therefore great wind down time and they are ticking the box as it were for their sleep. 

There are a number of issues with this which I will go on to explain in this podcast episode. 

The problems with screen time before bed seems to have become the most well known and well talked about part of improving sleep. 

Electronic devices emit short wave length, enriched light also known as blue light. This has been shown to reduce or delay melatonin production. There is starting to be some evidence that it is not as bad as originally thought but we need to see how this develops. But anyway, there is some evidence to say that blue light interferes with melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone that signals to your body that it’s time for night time and creates feelings of sleepiness. 

So blue light consequently can increase sleep latency - takes longer to get to sleep and reduce the quality of your sleep.

So, obviously not good. Standard advice is to switch screens off an hour before bed. 

It's possible to use various tools to try to help with this - blue light glasses, screen filters etc. Many devices are fitted with night time modes which reduce the level of blue light. This can help - you can find some links to some of these in my sleep resources which you will find linked in the show notes

However this is not the full story and too many people think it is. We have been led to believe that if we block the blue light, all is well and there is no harm in screen time before bed. 

The best advice is no screens during your wind down time - do something else. Read a book, listen to music, have a bath, do a little pamper session … whatever suits you. However, for a lot of people this is just not going to happen.

I believe that much more important is what we are doing on the screens. For example, reading on a kindle is very different to scrolling social media. Watching a bit of TV is much different to being in your work emails. Blue light filters or no blue light filters. 

We have to have boundaries when it comes to doing things on our tech that is going to stimulate the mind before bed. This is what we need to stop in the hour before bed more than anything else.

Do I sometimes read on my Ipad before sleep without a blue light filter - yes

Would i ever be scrolling socials straight before I go to sleep - no


Some people are more sensitive to blue light than others - I always think its worth experimenting with different things to see what impact it has on your sleep. The wind down journal is a great way of doing this as it allows you to track your sleep and make notes on what you did or didn't do - you will find the link to this in the show notes

But then also think about what you are doing on your screens. It shouldn’t be anything that stimulates your mind - and remember this can be quite subconscious until you bring your attention to it. 

And I always advocate for being strong on all the other sleep skills - how to manage your mind so thoughts don’t take over, how to have boundaries etc. This goes a long way with everything we have to deal with in the modern world. 

It is not a case of blue light being the issue in isolation and as long as you block it your sleep will be fine as it can seem sometimes on a basic google search or listening to basic sleep hygiene advice. 


So, my message today is that it is not enough to block blue light if you want to improve or optimise your sleep. You also need to think about what you are doing on the screen and whether this is conducive to a good nights sleep or not. And further than that, it is a good idea to track your sleep for a little while to start to pay attention to what positively and negatively influences it so you can understand your own triggers. As mentioned, the wind down journal includes trackers to get you to review the quantity and quality of your sleep and effectively be your own sleep tracker. You can also access my free sleep health check resource which is another great resource for starting to pay attention to your sleep so you can discover how to optimise it. You will find the links to both of these resources in the show notes. 


I hope this has helped you to see that there is more to the blue light issue and sleep than it can first seem and that you will use this to start to explore your own sleep more.