Watching the evening news has become one more way Americans multitask—we’re keeping up with a busy schedule during the day, so using our evening downtime to catch up with the news helps us stay connected and wind down at the same time. But sitting back and relaxing while taking in the world’s negativity on a brightly lit screen may not be the best way to prepare for a satisfying night’s sleep. Here’s how taking in the nightly news right before bed can disrupt healthy sleep.
- Falling asleep: The artificial light from your TV screen can trick your body into thinking it’s still light outside, disrupting natural circadian rhythms and making it harder to feel drowsy at bedtime.
- Staying asleep: That prolonged exposure to artificial light can also affect melatonin production. Melatonin is secreted in part of the hypothalamus and should increase from sunset on, decreasing just before sunrise in the early morning hours. Sleep scientists believe that melatonin helps encourage and maintain healthy sleep. Delaying that increasing melatonin production by exposing yourself to artificial light in the form of late-night TV can make it more likely that you’ll wake up in the middle of the night, since your melatonin levels may not be sufficient to encourage un-interrupted sleep throughout your sleep stages.
- Dreaming: The content of our television choices affects our dreams, according to DreamSchool. People often report dreams that relate to television shows watched before bed, or that feature similar scenarios. Watching news programs filled with disasters and tragedies in the hours leading up to bedtime can fill the brain with extra images and emotions that are processed as dreams. Bad dreams can wake us up in the middle of the night or leave us feeling as if we haven’t slept well the next morning.
- Waking refreshed: Staying up for the 11:00 news can throw off the body’s natural desire to go to bed with the sun and wake up with the sun, so even if you keep to a regular sleep schedule you won’t wake feeling as alert and fresh as if you’d gone to bed earlier. One extra hour can make all the difference when it comes to waking up ready to face your day!
Watching the evening news is a great way to keep up with what’s going on in the world, but it may have some very real consequences for our sleep and health. If your favorite news program comes on in the evening, protect your sleep hygiene first–consider recording it and watching it in the morning instead. You’ll get to bed earlier, get a better night’s sleep, and still get your news fix.