Before I even begin to talk about how to sleep through the night I think a bit of a disclaimer is in order.
I still to this day, consistently use Facebook, Netflix and WhatsApp.
I truly love them, and I wouldn’t know what I’d do, or where I’d be without them.
I’m sure these fantastic apps are a lifeline to billions of people around the world, just like they are for me.
Mark Zuckerberg, Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph, and Brian Acton and Jan Koum, I salute you.
With that being said, it took me a number of years to realize the overall effect that these (and many other) apps were having on the quality of my sleep – and that is the focus of today’s article.
Firstly, Why Did I Mention “How to Sleep Through the Night”?
I will get to my own issues with Facebook, Netflix and WhatsApp (and I’m sure these issues will sound very familiar to you), but first let’s get the “science bit” out of the way.
Electronic gadgets form a massive part of our daily lives in the modern day-and-age.
Where would be without our smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other electronic items?
However, we only have to go back about 30 years in history and most people had to make do with little more than a TV set to entertain themselves via screen time.
In fact, I find something very interesting if we go back a little further, let’s say 1910.
In 1910 (a good 17 years before the first electronic TV was successfully demonstrated in the designer’s San Francisco home), the average American enjoyed a healthy 9 hours sleep a night. Fast forward to today, and the figure is just below 6.8 hours a night.
So, we could argue that increasing visual entertainment over the years is costing us at least 2 hours of sleep a night.
But, there’s more to it than that.
The main issue with modern technology, and especially screens, is the effect they have on the body’s natural production of the hormone melatonin.
I have spoken about melatonin in pretty much every “insomnia/can’t sleep” article on this website, mainly because I want to hammer home just how important it is.
Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by the body. It is typically secreted at higher levels in the evening, let’s say from about 9pm onward.
Melatonin is the hormone that controls your circadian rhythm or your body’s 24-hour internal clock. This is also often referred to as your sleep-wake cycle.
So, the circadian rhythm runs on a 24-hour clock, typically in line with the earth’s rotation.
When it starts to get darker the levels of melatonin produced by the body are higher, thus telling the brain that sleep time is fast approaching.
When it’s lighter in the mornings, melatonin production decreases, which sends a message to the brain that it’s time to be alert and awake.
However, we are now aware that the blue light emitted by your smartphone, computers, laptops, tablets and television sets can decrease melatonin production.
It’s almost as though the blue light has “tricked” your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, and therefore you should be wide awake.
This, of course, makes it far harder to fall asleep.
This is typically why most experts say that you shouldn’t use any electronic gadgets prior to going to bed, and realistically for up to two hours beforehand.
With that being said, this was just the tip of the iceberg for me.
Facebook and Sleep
It is estimated that 1 in 3 people in the world experience at least mild insomnia.
There are currently (at the time of writing) 7,782,893,400 people in the world (by the time I finish writing this article the figure will be over 7,782,900,000)
There are currently approximately 2,600,000,000 active Facebook users in the world.
So, basically 1 in 3 people in the world actively use Facebook.
51% of Facebook users check in multiple times a day, whereas a further 23% check in at least once a day.
However, I think it is important to note that “correlation does not imply causation”.
By this I mean – I’m not implying that the use of Facebook is the cause of insomnia, and there are many factors at play here.
Nevertheless, the increase in social media-induced depression, stress and internet addiction will typically cause sleep issues in their own right.
Now I don’t want to just single out Facebook here, the following applies to all forms of social media.
It’s just that for many years Facebook was my choice of online social interaction.
So, how exactly did Facebook stop me sleeping through the night?
Now I don’t know if there is a specific word for it, and I know there is no formal diagnosis, but many of us suffer with what can best be termed “Facebook addiction” (once again this can apply to any social media platform).
How many of us use the site in an almost obsessive, compulsive manner?
And do you know why we do this?
We do it to alter our mood.
Social media can actually activate your brain’s reward center. Think about how you feel when someone “likes” your post, or you receive over 100 “likes” for a photo you’ve uploaded.
Now think about how you feel when no-one or very few people like your post, or if a post was aimed at a specific person, and they neither liked nor respond to the post.
We also tend to compare ourselves more to people online than we do in real life (real life, do you remember that?).
Everyone, and I mean everyone (yes even you reading this now), tends to present the very best version of themselves online, so the comparisons we make aren’t really based on reality.
For me, I would often write a post just before getting into bed (I know, I know – melatonin production), and then spend the next 2-3 hours checking every 5 minutes to see whether someone had liked or commented on my post.
Why would I do that to myself?
Often, if I hadn’t garnered the optimum number of likes this would play on my mind throughout the night.
Obviously this would stop me from being able to sleep peacefully through the night.
And don’t get me started on phantom vibration syndrome (yes that’s a thing, we’ve all done it) and how that would affect my night’s rest.
Netflix and No Chill
How many of you already know where I’m going with this?
And for those of you still concentrating on the words “Netflix” and “Chill” get your minds out the gutter – this article is about how to sleep through the night, nothing else!
I want to discuss binge-watching.
Once again, we’ve all done it.
I still remember my first real experience of Netflix binge-watching, and probably like many of you, my nemesis was Breaking Bad.
I would typically get into bed, nice and early, about 10pm, as I’d have to be up for 6am to get ready and go to work.
Laptop on, headphones on (look I wasn’t going to be selfish and disturb my partner, who sensibly read an actual, physical book for 30 minutes before nodding off), and I was good to go.
I remember the introduction of “The Cousins”, Leonel and Marco Salamanca, following the death of Tuco, where I actually managed to binge-watch 7 whole episodes one night.
That was just under 6 hours, being asked twice by Netflix whether I was still watching, and eventually trying to go to sleep at around 4am. Try as I might, I felt wide awake (melatonin anyone).
I simply turned off Netflix that night because I knew at 4am it was the right thing to do, but my mind was a non-stop vortex.
I needed to know what was going to happen next, but I also had to get up for work in 2 hours… in 1hour 47mins… in 1hour 43mins… in 1hour 37mins… (I was checking my phone every few minutes. I almost considered updating my Facebook status – “I can’t sleep” and then waiting for likes and responses!)
The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine even conducted a study on binge-watchers in 2017 and the results – higher reports of poor sleep quality, increased fatigue and increased symptoms of insomnia.
Michigan State University researchers found a link between binge-watching and eating unhealthy meals and snacks, which can have adverse effects not only on your sleep, but your overall health as well.
Binge-watching has also been likened to sitting (or lying) in a sedentary manner much the same as on long-haul flights by some researchers. They believed that binge-watching and staying in
Personally, I think I’d prefer the long-haul flight.
Just a quick note on WhatsApp
I don’t wish to go over the same ground once more, but WhatsApp had pretty much the same effect on me as Facebook and Netflix.
Group chat anyone?
The lack of those ticks turning blue would keep me awake for many a night.
Then there’s hiding your “last seen” status and then having to turn it back on to see when the person (who appears to be ignoring your messages) was last online.
The constant vibrations throughout the night would keep me awake, and then there were the times when my phone didn’t vibrate, and I’d have to check every few minutes to see if my message had been read.
All-in-all none of this was conducive to sleep.
My Final Thoughts
If you’d like to know how to sleep through the night, my advice to you is to keep electronics out of the bedroom.
We are now aware that the blue light emitted from these devices interferes with the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
From my personal experience, my use of Facebook, Netflix and WhatsApp, kept my mind racing throughout the night, which made it far harder for me to fall asleep.
I’d like to say I’ve completely changed my habits, and in the main I have.
I no longer binge-watch any Netflix serials, and limit myself to early evening viewing.
My Facebook use is almost non-existent now, as I started to realize just how much I craved attention from using this social media platform.
And yes, I use WhatsApp every day, I even send the odd late-evening message, but I won’t fall over myself checking for a reply.
What about you?
How do you feel about these 3 social media/media platforms?
Are you guilty of the above?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.