Why Does Tech Torpedo Sleep?

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Everyone loves their devices.

Everyone.

Except your brain and body.  

Your brain gets glitchy with doom scrolling, and how much it loves the simple rewards of clicking through things rather than diving deep into stuff.  It goes right into a high Beta brainwave state, where it is hyper focused but vulnerable to anxiety and anger.

Your body doesn’t do any better on tech.  Between craning and twisting your neck vertebrae to see your phone, to wrecking your thumb ligaments, to adrenaline rushes with bursts of short news pieces, to alarms that a thunderstorm or an escaped criminal is in your area….you get it.  Brains and bodies don’t love tech the way we do.

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Tech has a particularly disastrous effect on sleep.  Let’s forget the way it feels to have revenge sleep procrastination Revenge Bedtime Procrastination: How it is Different for People With DID?  .  The blue LED light emitted from tech makes it harder for you to fall and stay asleep.  I just did sleep coaching for a friend who is a trauma survivor.  She said she was so happy I could help her reduce, but not eliminate, TV.  “TV is a friend to me” was her exact quote.

I understood.  I have a similar, but not identical feeling.  But that screen, like all of the others in my home and hers, emits blue LED light.  The part of the light spectrum that is alerting to our brains.  Oops.  One of the many ways in which staring at a screen is rewarding.  You feel more “up”.  Even when doom scrolling, you feel more alert even as you read bad, bad news.  And when off, those little buttons and that clock also emit some blue light.  Just when you would like to sleep.

Uh-oh.

It is really hard to remove all tech, or let it sit there but stop using it.  It can be scary too.  It can feel like what the “bad people” of your past would do to you:  punish you.  The good news?  Any small change right now will make your sleep better.  And every improvement brings you closer to being able to make another change.

Moderation and caring thoughtful change is not only mature, it is healing.  You and your system experience what the kind and thoughtful stewardship of tech feels like.  This is what healthy relationships are like.  We care for others and support them to be their best selves while accepting that they aren’t perfect.  And best of all, you can improve things today without feeling like your lifeline to friends and information and entertainment is gone.

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What can you do to minimize the blue light from tech without going “Cold Turkey”?

  • Change your device settings.  Go into “systems” and look for “displays”.  Select “night shift” for a Mac device, and “night light” for a PC.
  • Move the device further away from your eyes.  A TV screen is better than a tablet, for example.  A tablet on a stand is better than a phone.
  • Cover the screen, and just listen.  You know you walk away to do stuff and just listen to it a lot anyway, right?
  • Cover the bright little buttons with stickers that dull the lights.  Find FLANCCI stickers on Amazon.
  • Use lightbulbs that remove blue light.  Not inexpensive, but getting cheaper all the time, and they last a very long time.
  • Avoid reaching for screens in the middle of the night.  Be prepared, and amass  other diversions around you to reach for if you get up and you can’t sleep.

Published by Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist and a licensed massage therapist, in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment, with a focus on sensory processing issues and treating the consequences of complex trauma. I am the author of four books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone". Over the years I have lectured about trauma treatment and pediatric development.

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