Watching a movie or your favourite TV shows before bedtime has been a nighttime ritual for people since television became accessible in the 60’s.
After our daily grind, the only time we get to switch off from the day and watch television is at night. Some people can fall asleep even without turning the TV off.
It isn’t ideal to use electronic devices right before bedtime, but watching TV at night is so ingrained in our routines that it can be challenging to resist. Who can resist binge-watching the latest Stranger Things or Sandman episode, right?
In this article, we look at the effects of watching television before sleeping and how leaving it on at night can affect your sleep quality.
Why Do People Enjoy Watching TV at Night?
With so many great TV shows and movies out there, it’s hard to resist a Netflix binge – after all, we humans are hungry for entertainment.
If you have been at school or work all day, switching on the TV screen can be a great way to relax and wind down, plus it’s the only time of the day that you can!
For others, it’s a great way to bond with your loved ones, and for some, watching TV is a fun family activity. Sometimes, the amount of time you spend relaxing while watching your fave shows can even be a boon for your mental health. We all need to destress, after all. It’s not without negative effects, though.
Staying glued in front of the tv screen can lead to an increased risk of having mental health problems and weight gain and can even degrade the quality of sleep you get!
One way your screen time can affect your thoughts, and physical health is FOMO.
FOMO or fear of missing out can hit you, especially when your beloved show is so famous you’re scared of seeing spoilers on social media that you binge-watch them even if, chances are, you’d end up with poor sleep the next day. It’s so bad that the National Sleep Foundation even did an article on it!
Movies and TV shows are a great form of escapism and help us wind down after a big day, but do they affect our sleep? If you’re a troubled sleeper, you might want to keep reading.
Will Sleeping with the TV on Affect My Sleep?
The simple answer is yes. Watching TV late at night can disrupt your ability to fall asleep naturally.
The light emitted from a television screen is a form of blue light, which we know isn’t great for your eyes or for sleep. Once the brain detects blue light, your melatonin production decreases.
Excessive blue light exposure has been linked to sleep deprivation and also prevents you from going through your normal circadian rhythm.
With less melatonin being produced, your body doesn’t get as much deep sleep as it needs to restore your energy fully and give you that refreshed feeling for the next day.
If you want good sleep hygiene, you should try to sleep in a dark and quiet environment. If you fall asleep with the TV on, it’s counterintuitive to a good night’s sleep.
The bright light emitted from television screens takes away the cognitive conditioning of the brain that a bedroom is a place for sleep. Likewise, the sound emitted by your television can also cause difficulty for people who enjoy sleeping in a quiet environment.
Want better sleep? Lay off the TV. Those shows can wait; you can’t.
Why Do Some People Need to Watch TV to Fall Asleep?
Your habits or rituals before bed will determine whether or not you’ll have a night of quality sleep.
Sometimes, people fall asleep because the sound from the television serves as white noise, which can sometimes cancel out the brain’s thought process.
Some people find it hard to sleep because of overthinking and processing thoughts and ideas in their heads, keeping them wide awake.
The ambient noise coming from the television can overlap your thoughts and cancel out the thinking process, which can help your brain be less active.
The inactivity of the brain can be relaxing and allow a person to fall asleep faster.
But that’s not to say that it’s a great idea, as there might be an unexpected loud noise from the TV that could jolt you awake.
Having background noise from the television can sometimes cause you to wake up in the middle of the night, which may reset your sleep cycle and lessen your sleep quality.
For some people, they enjoy keeping the TV on for the whole night as they are not comfortable sleeping in total darkness – this can be true, especially for young children.
In cases where a TV is used as a light source, try to replace it with a night light instead and form your sleep habit around it.
How Late Should I Stay Up Watching TV?
To practice good sleep hygiene and improve your sleep, it’s best to stay away from artificial light at least an hour or two before sleeping. So if you sleep at 11 pm, switch off the TV at 10 pm at the latest.
Avoiding blue light-emitting devices such as smartphones, computers, and TV screens is best to allow the body to produce the melatonin required for quality sleep.
Developing sleep habits such as staying in a dark, quiet room allows you to sleep better and your body to go through the proper stages of sleep without interruptions.
What Are the Alternatives to Watching TV?
If you like the ambient background noise from the TV to help put you to sleep, it’s not the most effective option for a deep, long-lasting snooze.
Some sleep specialists recommend using white noise machines or playing white noise in the background to serve as your ambient noise. The beauty of white noise machines and apps is that they produce a constant sound that would not cause any unexpected loudness that may interrupt your sleep.
As white noise may not be suitable for everyone, playing calming music in the background or sounds of nature can also be a helpful replacement for white noise or TV noise. There are plenty of apps available that play white noise or environment sounds.
If you listen to music, it’s best to avoid music with lyrics, as you may end up paying attention to the lyrics and singing along, therefore finding it more difficult to fall asleep than before.
What If I Really Want to Watch TV at Night?
We don’t want you to stop watching your favourite shows at night, but rather be more mindful about when you watch.
Reducing screen time can be a good option, or setting up a sleep timer for your television. You can still enjoy watching some TV before bed while ensuring that it won’t wake you up in the middle of the night.
While it’s very common to sleep with the TV on, it’s still not the best way for you to fall asleep naturally.
If you think it’s affecting your sleep, consider changing your habits and practising sleep hygiene, which will help you sleep deeper and longer.