Do you fall asleep with the TV on every night? Here’s what experts say about the habit.

By | February 27, 2024

Whether it is the nightly news or an old news story Friends episode that they have seen 40 times, many people say that they are lulled to sleep by the television. Some can’t even imagine falling asleep without it. If you’re one of those sleepers, you might be wondering if your nighttime habit is really good for you — or if it could end up interrupting your sleep. After all, we’ve long been told that screens at night can disrupt our natural sleep cycles and keep us awake longer than we might like.

So – to TV or not to TV? Experts say the answer is a bit complicated. Here’s what you need to know.

Why can some people fall asleep with the TV on?

The television is loud and people usually need quiet to sleep. So why are some people soothed by something like a sitcom with a laugh track as the soundtrack to their sleep? Aric Prather, a psychologist who treats insomnia, tells Yahoo Life that it’s not exactly clear why some people can fall asleep with a TV on, while others cannot. However, he says our brains can limit sensory processing, causing us to sleep even when there is noise in the background. “Some people are more sensitive than others, and some stimuli are more alert,” Prather explains.

Molly Atwood, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University, tells Yahoo Life that the reason most people feel comforted by TV is that it produces background noise that can calm or distract their minds. “We have a system in our body that is similar to the hunger drive: the longer we are awake, the more we want to sleep,” she says. “But when we are in an anxious state, or our ‘fight or flight’ system is activated, that can suppress our body’s urge to sleep.”

If a person’s mind is too active, Atwood says, it can destroy the urge to sleep. Television can help people focus on something else so they can avoid the thoughts that might keep them awake. “They feel more relaxed and then sleep comes more easily,” she notes.

Nicole Carmona, a clinical postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford Sleep Health and Insomnia Program, tells Yahoo Life that some people struggle with “performance anxiety” when it’s time to fall asleep; the pressure is too much. “Under these circumstances, TV can distract the individual from any anxious thoughts about falling asleep,” she says.

Is it bad to fall asleep with the TV on?

Dr. Meena Khan, a sleep medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Yahoo Life that if someone has trouble sleeping, TV can be a culprit. “Watching TV can delay bedtime, especially if the person watching is busy with the program that is on,” she says. She adds that those who suffer from insomnia also want to make sure their brain associates their bed with sleep – and don’t want to stay awake watching TV, which can affect future sleep.

Although our bodies have a system to filter out sounds while we sleep, they cannot remove all sound. Extreme volume or light changes, such as an explosion in a TV program, can wake us up and disrupt our sleep.

What you watch before bed can also affect how well you sleep, says Carmona. Content that is particularly emotional can make you feel more awake and engaged, preventing you from relaxing enough to fall asleep. While this will vary from person to person, Carmona says you should avoid shows, movies, or content like news programs that “increase feelings of anxiety, fear, tension, or anger right before bed.”

Typically, however, falling asleep with the TV on every night could indicate that something is preventing you from sleeping naturally. “If you’re having trouble and feel like TV is the only option you have for getting to sleep, it may be helpful to talk to someone like a sleep specialist to come up with methods to manage anxiety or clear your mind. bring peace of mind, because there are many effective treatments and tools,” says Atwood.

Is there a better way to watch TV before going to bed?

Atwood notes that it’s important to consider the impact of light on your sleep, because intense blue or white light can suppress our body’s release of melatonin, suppressing alertness and allowing drowsiness to take over. When you watch TV on a computer or tablet, that light is closer to your face. That’s why Atwood says if you have to watch something before going to bed, watch it on a TV that’s further away from you.

It can also be helpful to set a timer on your television. This ensures that the TV is off when you finally fall asleep, reducing later interruptions.

In general, Atwood recommends that you limit the time you spend watching TV in bed. People can become conditioned to associate the bed with being awake, rather than sleeping, which can affect sleep on future nights. Creating a routine that focuses on rest and relaxation, rather than television, can help you fall asleep more easily.

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