On Screen/Off Screen Is It Hurting Our Sleep?

by Christine Sine

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The discussion on Tuesday’s post What’s the Problem With Insomnia has made me realize that this is an extremely important issue for many of us. It is easy to make the excuse however that waking in the night is normal and then ignore the factors in our lifestyles that contribute to our sleeplessness. I wrote about this several months ago and hope that you will forgive me for repeating some of what I said then.

Sleeplessness is often more a function of our lifestyle than anything else. We can’t just blame the electric light however. Lack of time outside in the sunlight, lack of time in the dark at night, lack of exercise, stress and the inability to relax our minds before we go to bed can all contribute to lack of sleep. Inner Body Research has some great suggestions for those who struggle regularly with insomnia, including some simple ways to diagnose what may be the underlying cause of the problem. No wonder the sleeping pill industry is booming.

The problem is getting worse and our technology contributes to it. A few months ago I read this interesting article Reading On A Screen Before Going to Bed May be Killing You

You’ve heard that using screens before bedtime can mess with your sleep, but new research suggests the problem is even more serious.

Reading from an iPad before bed not only makes it harder to fall asleep, but also impacts how sleepy and alert you are the next day, according to new research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, said the findings could impact anyone who uses an eReader, laptop, smartphone, or certain TVs before bed. Read the entire article 

This was not good news for me because I love to read before I go to bed and reading on my tablet means I don’t disturb my husband. Even before I get into bed, Tom and I often watch a movie on our TV before we retire – not necessarily good either.

As I have already mentioned, sleep is one of the essential rhythms of life. Without adequate sleep we soon cease to function properly, without any sleep, a condition that is fortunately fairly rare,  we will die. Not only does the biphasic sleep pattern I talked about in my previous post seem more natural, there is even evidence that a siesta in the afternoon boosts our memory and cognitive functioning.

Faith and Sleep

Faith practices can also help us relax and enter into that sleep which is indeed a gift from God which as you know is part of the reason that I write prayers for both the morning and the evening. If we want to sleep properly a rhythm of prayer throughout the day can really help.

  • In her article Christian Meditation – God’s Gift for Healthy Sleep Deborah Kukal talks about the important part that meditation on psalms can play in helping us relax and sleep. So when you’re struggling in the night, remember David’s words, and let God’s peaceful gift of meditation fill your soul with comfort, and your body with rest. read more

There are other Christian practices that can help too.

  • Lectio divina and a reflective reading of scripture before we go to bed is a wonderful way to relax and go to sleep in the presence of God. Intentionally disconnecting from my laptop or kindle at least 1/2 hour before I go to bed and indulging in a meditative practice like lectio divina much a huge difference to my night’s sleep.
  • The prayer of examen  which helps us to review the day in the presence of God, encouraging us to leave the cares and worries we have encountered in God’s hands, is another wonderful way to end our waking hours. I have done this sporadically over the years and realize I need to reinstitute this practice.
  • Breathing prayers which encourage us to breathe deeply and regularly can also be of great value. Evidently many of us spend most of our lives breathing too shallowly and deprive our lungs and other organs of the oxygen we need to remain healthy. More than that it can relieve anxiety, stimulate our immune system and even alleviate the symptoms of trauma. Read more. As you know I love to write breathing prayers and have found them to be wonderful tools for relaxing me.
  • Centering prayers  provide a way for all of us to sit in the contentment of the moment, shutting out the noise in order to focus completely on God. This is not a practice that comes easily or naturally to most of us which is probably an indication of the stress that we live under. If you don’t know much about this form of prayer I would heartily recommend Basil Pennington’s classic Centering Prayer to you.
  • Prayer beads are, for many, a great stress reliever and can be a wonderful way to prepare yourself for sleep. You might like to design your own prayer to say with your beads before you go to retire for the night.

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4 comments

» On Screen/Off Screen Is It Hurting Our Sleep? July 2, 2015 - 7:22 am

[…] On Screen/Off Screen Is It Hurting Our Sleep? […]

Mary Harwell Sayler July 2, 2015 - 8:41 am

Christine, this speaks to me greatly! Not only have I been having insomnia, but my Bible study group was talking about these very things just yesterday morning! Thanks. I’ll highlight your timely word on the Christian Poets & Writers blog – http://www.christianpoetsandwriters.com.

Christine Sine July 2, 2015 - 8:44 am

Thanks Mary – No one loves technology more than I do but I know there is a down side to it and setting the boundaries so that we get enough sleep is very important. I was shocked when I first heard this but it does not really surprise me.

Joy Lenton July 2, 2015 - 11:56 am

Excellent article, Christine! This is such a common problem, and these are great common-sense and faith-based suggestions for dealing with it. Thank you! 🙂

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