Many people enjoy falling asleep with the TV on in the background. The light and noise can feel comforting and make it easier to unwind at the end of a long day. However, sleeping with the TV on regularly can negatively impact the quality of your sleep and your health.
In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss the drawbacks of sleeping with the TV on and provide actionable tips and strategies to help break this habit for good.
Drawbacks of Sleeping with the TV On
While it may feel natural to snooze with the TV on, research shows that this habit can seriously disrupt your sleep quality and quantity. Here are some of the main downsides:
Disrupted Sleep Cycles
The light emitted from TV screens can suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your circadian rhythm and signal to your body that it’s time for bed. This can make it harder to fall and stay asleep throughout the night.
Poor Sleep Quality
The constantly changing lights and sounds from the TV prevent you from reaching the deepest, most restorative stages of sleep. This can leave you feeling groggy and unrested, even after a full night’s sleep.
TV shows are designed to be stimulating. The quickly changing scenes, dramatic music, bright colors, and flashing lights keep your brain engaged rather than allowing it to wind down. This increased cognitive and sensory stimulation makes quality sleep nearly impossible.
Staring at a bright TV screen in a dark room strains the eyes. This can cause eye fatigue and headaches which disrupt sleep.
Exposure to loud volumes, especially over long periods and close distances, can damage hearing over time.
Overstimulating content right before bed can increase cognitive arousal and anxiety, making it harder to fall asleep. News programming in particular has been shown to negatively impact sleep.
10 Tips to Break the Habit of Sleeping With the Tv On
Many people enjoy falling asleep to the glow of the television screen. However, research shows that sleeping with the TV on can have negative effects on your sleep quality and overall health. Breaking this habit takes effort but can lead to better rest at night. Here are 10 tips to help you stop sleeping with the television on.
1. Recognize the Drawbacks
First, think about the disadvantages of sleeping with the TV on. The artificial light and noise from the TV can:
- Disrupt your natural circadian rhythms
- Reduce REM and deep sleep
- Wake you frequently throughout the night
- Increase fatigue and irritability the next day
Sleep specialists recommend sleeping in a dark, quiet, and cool environment for optimal rest. The TV creates the opposite environment. Being aware of these drawbacks can motivate you to turn off the tube.
2. Set a TV Curfew
Next, set a curfew for TV watching before bed. Stop watching television at least one hour before your bedtime. This curfew gives your brain a chance to unwind before sleep.
Your bedtime routine is also essential. After turning off the TV, do relaxing activities like reading, meditation, listening to music, or taking a bath. This transition helps your body understand it’s time for rest.
3. Remove the TV from Your Bedroom
Ideally, remove the television from your bedroom. Many sleep doctors recommend keeping your bedroom for two things—sleep and intimacy. No screens allowed.
If completely removing the TV isn’t possible, try covering it or facing it away from your bed. Out of sight can mean out of mind.
4. Dim the Lights
Television screen light in a dark room is very stimulating. If removing the TV isn’t an option, try dimming the lights before bed.
Bright light suppresses the natural release of melatonin—a hormone that makes you feel sleepy. Dim lights can allow for drowsiness.
Also consider using a blue light filter on your screens. Blue light is the most disruptive for sleep. Apps like f.lux can warm the screen display and help prevent stimulation.
5. Drown Out the Noise
TV noise can prevent you from falling into deep, restorative sleep stages. Use background noise to mask the television sounds. Options include:
- White noise machine – Emits a soothing, constant shushing sound
- Earplugs – Block out external sounds completely
- Fan – Creates gentle white noise
- Soothing music – Aids relaxation
Experiment with different noise blockers to find what works best for you.
6. Make Your Bed Comfortable
Sometimes the TV is simply a distraction from an uncomfortable sleep environment. Make sure your bed, pillows, and blankets are optimized for great sleep.
- Mattress – Supportive and comfortable
- Pillows – Align the head and neck
- Sheets – Breathable fabric like cotton
- Comforter – Lightweight for better temperature regulation
- Bed frame – Provides lift for easier breathing
A cozy nest makes it easier to fall asleep without the TV.
7. Set a TV Timer
If going completely without TV is tough, use a timer as a gradual step. For example:
- Start with a 60 minute timer. When it goes off, shut off the TV.
- After a week, reduce the timer to 45 minutes.
- Over time, continue shortening the timer in 15 minute intervals.
This gives your body time to adjust to smaller doses of TV before bed.
8. Pick the Right Shows
Make sure any pre-bed TV shows are relaxing rather than stimulating. Avoid action movies, the news, intense dramas, and anything shocking or scary.
Better options include:
- Nature documentaries
- Cooking shows
- Lighthearted comedies
- Guided meditation
The goal is to avoid adrenaline-inducing content that will keep you wired. Stick to mellow shows.
9. Get Some Exercise
Daily exercise helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. After physical activity, your body temperature drops and creates the perfect conditions for sleep.
Aim for 20-30 minutes per day of exercise like walking, yoga, swimming, or cycling. Break a sweat earlier in the day so you’re primed for bedtime later.
If you have pent up energy at night, take a few minutes to stretch or do strength exercises. This can calm your restlessness before bed.
10. Consult a Sleep Doctor
For chronic insomnia or sleep disruptions, talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist. They can check for underlying conditions like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.
Therapy for anxiety or depression that causes sleeplessness may be recommended. Getting to the root of any sleep disruptions leads to the best treatment.
With some diligence and patience, you can break the habit of sleeping with the TV on. Follow the tips above to improve your sleep quality and wake more refreshed. Sweet dreams!
Tips for Success
Here are some additional tips to improve your chances of successfully breaking the habit of sleeping with the TV on:
- Take small steps – Make gradual changes over time rather than going cold turkey if that feels too drastic.
- Be patient – It can take weeks or months to fully retrain your body’s sleep cues. Stick with your new routine.
- Prioritize sleep – Treat quality sleep as the health necessity it is. Approach the habit change with commitment.
- Limit afternoon/evening naps – Excessive daytime sleep can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
- Exercise daily – Regular exercise helps regulate melatonin and can make it easier to fall asleep.
- Optimize sleep environment – Use blackout curtains or an eye mask to block light. Ear plugs or a white noise machine can soften disruptive noises.
- Avoid caffeine/alcohol before bed – Caffeine is a stimulant that disrupts sleep. Alcohol may seem to help you fall asleep faster but causes poor quality sleep later.
- Address stress/anxiety – Unmanaged stress and anxiety are primary sleep disruptors. Try relaxation techniques and get help if needed.
With commitment and consistency, the habit of sleeping with the TV on can be broken. Establishing a TV-free pre-bedtime routine is the key to improving your sleep quality.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I can’t fall asleep without the TV on?
It may take time to adjust to sleeping without the TV if you are used to this habit. Try using alternative background noise like a fan or white noise machine and practice relaxation techniques to help calm your mind, such as deep breathing, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation. Maintain patience and consistency, allowing time for your body’s cues to change.
Why do I wake up if the TV shuts off?
If you are used to sleeping with the constant noise from the TV, the sudden silence when it shuts off can jolt you awake. Use a sleep timer that slowly fades out the volume rather than abruptly stopping. You can also keep the timer going all night with the volume low. Over time, you will adjust and the noise will no longer be needed to stay asleep.
Can I listen to music or podcasts instead?
Less stimulating audio like calm music, meditation tracks or podcasts are preferable alternatives to TV. The key is choosing something relaxing without jarring noises, flashing lights or an engaging plot. Listen at a moderate, consistent volume. Avoid frequently changing songs or complex storylines that can disrupt sleep.
What if my partner/family still sleeps with the TV on?
Involve your partner or family members to help change the sleep habits of the whole household together. Compromise by using a sleep timer and keeping the volume low. If the TV must stay on, use blackout curtains and a white noise machine to dull the disruptive light and noise. Avoid napping together in front of the TV during the day.
I only watch TV for a short time before bed. Is that ok?
Even watching TV for 30-60 minutes too close to bedtime can negatively impact your ability to fall and stay asleep. The blue light and mental stimulation right before bed are the real issues. Try to shut off electronics at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. Replace the TV habit with a more relaxing activity like reading during that pre-sleep window.
While sleeping with the TV on can seem harmless, research clearly demonstrates that this common habit disrupts the quality and quantity of sleep. The light, noise and cognitive stimulation from the TV prevent the body and brain from powering down into restorative sleep. Breaking the habit requires gradually limiting TV time in the evenings, creating a relaxing pre-bed routine, making the bedroom a TV-free zone and addressing any underlying causes. With commitment to behavior change, the negative impacts of sleeping with the TV on can be avoided, allowing you to reap the full benefits of healthy sleep.