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Baylor College of Medicine News

Screen time before bed varies by person

 It's the advice that we all know, but want to ignore – to get a good night's sleep, no screen time before bed. A sleep expert at Baylor College of Medicine breaks it down for us, and says that screen time actually varies by person and by the type of screen.

"Browsing the internet on a bright screen is not good for healthy sleep practices, and is worse than something like an eReader before bed," said Dr. Philip Alapat, assistant professor of medicine and medical director of the Baylor Sleep Center.

For good quality sleep, Alapat says you should have a scheduled bedtime, it should be at night, and for seven to eight hours. A bright computer, television or even an eReader doesn't always fit into the equation.

Alapat emphasizes the importance of sleep being nocturnal, because it falls within the normal circadian rhythm to be sleepy in dark, low light situations. Bright screens are intrusive and can disrupt the quality of sleep, particularly for those who are more prone to insomnia.

Alapat says that within a routine, reading is fine before bedtime, even on an eReader. However, if you're having difficulty falling asleep, reading in bed is counterproductive.

"Your body perceives this as the norm, and it's hard for your brain to shut off to get to sleep after lying in bed reading. Consider doing your reading elsewhere, such as the living room," he said.

Alapat also says that any behavior that activates your brain – anything that will keep you engrossed – is not conducive to maintaining nightly sleep.

If you insist on watching television before bed, adjust the settings on the screen so that it's less bright, and try not to sit right in front of a big television.

"Research shows that circadian rhythm is disrupted by bright light exposure during night time, so any type of bright lights can interfere with your circadian rhythm," said Alapat.

The bottom line is that different routines work well for different people, so adjust nighttime screen time to fit what works best for you.