4 Ways Electronics Can Affect Your Sleep, According to Research

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Whether you’re scrolling on your smartphone or watching TV, using electronics before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep and get enough hours. Smartphones, TVs, computers, tablets, E-readers, and handheld game systems all emit artificial blue light that can disrupt sleep quality and quantity. 

But what is before-bed screen time doing to your body that wrecks sleep? Here are four research-backed ways electronics affect sleep health—plus how to skip blue-light-emitting electronics before bed.  

1. Disrupt Your Circadian Rhythm  

Too much blue light from electronics can trick your brain into thinking it’s time to rise and shine when it’s actually bedtime. This is because blue light disrupts your circadian rhythm—the body’s 24-hour sleep/wake cycle.

Natural blue light is something you encounter every day. White light from the sun separates into various color spectrums—including blue light. Sunlight helps regulate your circadian rhythm by triggering hormones that make you feel awake in the morning and tired at night. 

Artificial blue light has the same effect on your circadian rhythm, and too much screen time exposes you to blue light that makes your brain think it’s daytime. Studies show using electronics before bed can increase sleep latency—the time it takes to fall asleep—and decrease sleep duration. 

2. Suppress Melatonin Production

Blue light from electronics can suppress melatonin production which helps you fall asleep. Melatonin is an essential sleep hormone tied to your circadian rhythm. At night—and in the absence of light—your body creates more melatonin to help you feel sleepy. In the morning, your body decreases melatonin levels to avoid feeling drowsy.

Studies have shown two hours of night-time blue light exposure is enough to suppress melatonin production and lower levels. This reduction is likely short-lived, with some folks recovering levels within 15 minutes of avoiding blue light. However, the change in your natural melatonin levels is enough to make you feel awake and take more time to fall asleep. 

3. Overstimulate Your Brain  

Blue light has a short wavelength and a high frequency, making staring at a screen extremely stimulating. When blue light wavelengths reach your eyes, it starts suppressing delta brainwaves related to sleep and increasing alpha wavelengths related to alertness. 

As a result, artificial blue light exposure at night can make you feel wired and restless. This can make it hard to relax before bed and fall asleep. So all those funny videos you binged before bed are probably why you’re still awake.  

The stimulation from excessive smartphone use can also make you feel stressed and increases your risk of anxiety and depression. Technology’s hit on your mental health can make it challenging to get enough quality sleep and puts you at risk of developing insomnia

4. Alter Sleep Stages

Electronic use before bed can also affect rapid eye movement (REM) and deep sleep (slow-wave sleep). Again, this is all closely intertwined with how blue light affects your circadian rhythm—which can control the sleep stages

Research has found blue light exposure at night decreased REM sleep duration and delayed REM sleep by 30 minutes. REM sleep is when brain activity increases, and dreaming occurs. Not getting enough REM sleep or delaying this stage can make you feel groggy when you wake up.

Blue light can also suppress deep sleep a few hours into your sleep cycle, and it can cause you to fall back into a deep sleep in the early morning. Deep sleep is when the body and your brain slow down. It’s also when you may experience night terrors or sleepwalking. Similar to your REM sleep, these changes in deep sleep can make it hard to wake up and feel rested.   

Tips for Balancing Electronics Use and Sleep

Avoiding electronics before bed is the best way to prevent sleep-disrupting artificial blue light. Studies have found that avoiding smartphones 30 minutes before bed for four weeks helped people improve their ability to fall and stay asleep.

However, if you’re having trouble forgoing your smartphone before bed, try these tips to reduce blue light exposure: 

  • Dim your screen or use “night mode” or “dark mode” if available
  • Using blue light blocking or amber glasses
  • Put your phone in another room a few hours before bed 
  • Use a blue-light-filtering screen protector
  • Set a reminder alarm to turn off electronics 30 minutes to 2 hours before bed 
  • Download a blue light reduction app on your device

Electronic Use Before Bed for Children

Kids appear to be especially susceptible to delayed sleep and fewer hours of sleep after using electronics. This may be because children and teens are more likely to use electronics at night when they should be sleeping. Additionally, studies have found blue light’s ability to suppress melatonin levels reduces with age, meaning it may affect younger folks more. 

A 2017 study of children ranging from 8 to 17 reported that children who used computers, cell phones, and TVs at night reduced their hours and quality of sleep:

  • TV time reduced sleep by 30 minutes
  • Cellphone use reduced sleep by 1 hour or less
  • Video games reduced sleep by 30 minutes or less (also more trouble staying asleep)
  • Computer use reduced sleep by 60 minutes (also more trouble falling asleep)

Teenagers also have circadian rhythms that tend to run later in the day, which may contribute to more night-time phone use and even later sleep delays. A large study of 16- to 19-year-olds in Norway found that daytime and bedtime electronic use increased the time it took to fall asleep and contributed to less sleep. Computer use specifically increased teens’ risk of sleeping less than 5 hours. 

FAQs about Electronics and Sleep

Why do electronics make it hard to sleep?

Electronics emit artificial blue light that suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin and triggers brain waves that make you feel alert. This causes you to feel awake and tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime, making it difficult to fall asleep and get enough hours.

Can electronics affect sleep quality?

Yes, using electronics that emit blue light before bed can affect your sleep quality by increasing the time it takes to fall asleep and how many times you woke up at night.

How long before bed should you turn off electronics?

You should avoid using electronics 30 minutes to two hours before bed. This should help limit your blue light exposure enough so your body is ready to sleep.


Screentime before bed can make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get enough sleep. Most smartphones, TVs, computers, tablets, E-readers, and handheld game systems have back-lit screens that emit artificial blue light. Blue light can affect your sleep quantity and quality by altering your brain and hormones that help control your sleep/wake cycle. So if you feel like your sleep is suffering from bedtime scrolling, try avoiding your devices an hour or so before bed—or at least dim your screens.

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