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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Why a Nighttime Routine Might Be Undermining Success

If your nighttime routine involves homework, chatting with friends, and reading a good book before bed, you’ve got the upper hand when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.

However, if you’re one of millions of people who stare at a computer screen until falling asleep, you’re probably not getting the best sleep. There’s always something new and fun to discover, but not getting enough sleep could be undermining your success.

Sleep is underrated

Your ability to get a good night’s sleep without interruption is vital to your success in life because it directly affects your ability to function physically and mentally.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, your body physically repairs itself during the third stage of sleep, which happens to be the deepest stage of sleep. In this stage of sleep, brain waves are slowed down, blood pressure drops, breathing slows, and tissue is repaired. Hormones are also secreted, including Human Growth Hormone.

If you can’t fall into, or stay in this stage of deep sleep, you’ll end up suffering from sleep deprivation and you’ll feel groggy and restless.

When you’re sleep deprived, you could get 12 hours of “sleep” and still feel like you haven’t slept more than five minutes. You’ll struggle with cognitive function and might be tempted to take dangerous stimulants to stay awake.

Sleep deprived? There’s a solution

If you’re feeling exhausted no matter how much sleep you get, staring at a computer screen late at night is probably the cause. The good news is you can resolve this and start getting better sleep as early as tonight.

It’s not always the content; it’s the blue light

While videos with upsetting or shocking content can induce episodes of insomnia, it’s not just the content that’s keeping you up – it’s also the light.

While all light frequencies can interrupt sleep cycles, blue light has the most disruptive effect. Blue light is a stimulating wavelength that boosts attention, reaction times, and mood. These effects are great during the day, but not at night when you’re trying to get some rest. Blue light also suppresses the secretion of melatonin, which is crucial for getting a good night’s sleep.

A Harvard study discussed in the link above conducted an experiment to test the effects blue and green light have on the secretion of melatonin and circadian rhythms.

Researchers exposed participants to 6.5 hours of either blue light, or green light. Both groups experienced suppressed melatonin and extended circadian rhythms. However, participants exposed to blue light experienced suppression of melatonin for twice as long, and the extension of their circadian rhythm was also doubled.

Chill out on binge watching your favorite series

Americans have been falling asleep watching TV for decades – a habit that has transferred to the computer thanks to on-demand applications like Hulu and Netflix. Unlike television, these platforms allow people to watch an entire season of their favorite series back-to-back.

A recent survey by Amerisleep uncovered just how addicted people are to their favorite shows. “Of those who acknowledged that their shut eye was negatively affected by Netflix, 46% said they lost sleep because of how addictive their favorite series is,” a study describes, “while 25% said the autoplay feature makes them watch the next episode even if they don’t really want to.”

Exercise self-control and rearrange your nightly routine

It sounds weird to use the term “self-control” in relation to watching shows on the computer, but it’s absolutely necessary if you want to get a good night’s sleep.

If you’re struggling with exhaustion and feel sleep deprived, consider cutting down on the amount of media you consume prior to bed. With Netflix, you can watch your shows anytime. Try to watch them earlier in the day, or on your days off, if possible. If you know you need to work in the morning, exercise self-control by turning off the auto play feature so you’re not even tempted to let it roll.

If you absolutely can’t give up falling asleep watching your shows, at least get a pair of glasses that filter out the blue light. Or, install blue light elimination programs on your computer to eliminate the blue light while you watch your shows.

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