Turndown Service: TV, or not TV—our in-house sleep hacker weighs in.

Is watching TV in bed a bad thing? This is perhaps one of the most common sleep questions I’m asked. Spoiler alert. The answer is…yes.

First, and I believe most sleep scientists will agree, the light emitted from the TV can cause disruptions to your sleep. Now there are two ways this can occur.

The most common is the blue light from the TV messing with your body’s regulatory system. So while you lay there watching reruns of ‘Law & Order’, your brain is getting a heavy dose of blue light, the same light you should avoid before bed. Second, and here’s a little-known fun fact, even if you fall asleep the light from the TV is still penetrating your eyelids and finding its way to your brain. Remember—light is the major driver of our circadian rhythms. So chances are the light from your TV will impact the quality of your sleep.

Couple watching tv in bed on a laptop.

Second, most sleep experts will tell you association plays a big role in how we sleep. In theory, we want our brain to associate our bed with only two things: sleep and intimacy. By introducing the TV into the mix you are now associating watching TV with laying in bed. Sleep onset (the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep) can be impacted by associating the wrong things with your bed. If you train your brain to correlate your bed with only sleep, you increase your likelihood of falling asleep faster.

Woman sleeping in bed.

Third, and probably the most interesting, is the impact watching TV has on our mattress. That’s right. Our mattress. Most mattresses are made with top layers that consist of various foams. By watching TV in bed you are essentially heating up the foams, thus making the mattress warmer before bedtime. When our bodies are transitioning from wake to sleep, our bodies are going from hot to cold. Getting into a warm bed may seem ideal but really we want a cold bed (our mattresses might just happen to contain cooling beads). This initial cooler feeling will help you drift off to sleep easier and stay asleep longer.

A sleep scientist would say no TV in bed. Period. But why not run an experiment of your own?

Man drinking coffee while on the computer.

Choose a week where you don’t watch TV from bed, and pay close attention to how you feel in the morning. Now, this is very subjective, and ideally, we would want to have sleep monitoring sensors and other gadgets to give you some objective data. But, for the sake of this experiment, forget that for now. Just go off of your own perception. If you feel your sleep improved, there’s your answer. If you feel it didn’t improve, maybe TV in bed wasn’t that big of a deal after all.

Or maybe there are other habits you should tweak that will have a greater impact on your sleep.

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