Science Shows Reading Will Give You a Better Night's Rest Than Watching Netflix Before Bed

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

If you've found yourself waking up groggy in the morning despite a long night in bed, don't think about changing your sleep patterns — look to how you're spending time right before it. Instead of queuing up Netflix, take the chance to crack open a book.

For years, studies have shown that one of the biggest impediments to a good night's sleep is watching TV before bed. There's myriad reasons for this, but many are the same as why you shouldn't use a computer, either. No less than the National Sleep Foundation has stated this. 

"Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode," their site reads. "For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain."

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So just as reading email or surfing the net can negatively affect you, so can watching something. The trick is in the blue light that has practically the same effect as daylight. Having to pay attention to a narrative isn't inherently disruptive, but staring at that light is.

Yes, you may need to catch up on BoJack Horseman or binge Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt for the first time. There are occasions for that. But Netflix before bed is a losing combination, whether using a TV, a tablet or a computer — and with Netflix available on all these platforms, it can be a dangerous outlet for pre-bedtime entertainment. In fact, as Lifehacker recommends, the best course of action is likely to remove all kinds of screens from your bedroom entirely.

This isn't a new train of thought. Studies show the most harmful way to affect children's sleep patterns is to have a TV set in their room. That same logic applies to adulthood, though it can be harder to practice self-control than it is for parents to take screens out of their children's rooms. Often, days and nights can be so packed that the only time to watch Netflix is right before bed.

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Instead, however, the National Sleep Foundation recommends reading as "a calming activity" before bed. Don't read on a Kindle or other e-reader, though — find an actual book. This way, one can still enjoy the stimulation of following a story before bed without being disrupted by the blue light. Plus, reading in print still has amazing effects; it's a win-win scenario of sorts.

There are incredibly positive ways technology can help us sleep, from Fitbits to smart beds. To reject technology in the bedroom entirely is extreme and limiting. However, the screens we currently use to watch Netflix will never be able to truly lull us to sleep. Instead, give an exciting new piece of nonfiction or a beloved old novel a try.

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Kevin O'Keeffe

Kevin is the arts editor at Mic, writing about inclusion and representation in pop culture. He is based in New York and can be reached at kevin@mic.com.

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