How do digital media affect sleep?

Digital media have become indispensable in today's everyday life, but how do smartphones, social media, Netflix & CO. on our sleep patterns? We explain what digital media mean for sleep and what we should consider so that our sleep is restful despite media consumption.

Table of Contents

  1. Media consumption in everyday life
  2. The effect of media on sleep
  3. Tips for media consumption before bed
  4. Conclusion

1. Media consumption in everyday life

Digital media are an integral part of today's everyday life. Hardly anyone leaves the house without a smartphone, in the car or at work we listen to the radio and in the evenings at home the television or our favorite series is on Netflix. In 2021, we spent an average of 10 hours a day consuming digital media. However, this can also have numerous negative effects and also significantly impair our sleep. Because exciting TV series, exciting computer games or hours of scrolling through social media channels can prevent us from finding enough relaxation before going to bed.

Numerous studies show that the consumption of digital media before going to bed has a decisive influence on our sleep patterns. It depends above all on the type of medium and the time of use. Active media, such as gaming or social media, can have a greater impact on sleep than passive media, such as television or podcasts, which are more rushed and don't require direct interaction.

2. The effect of digital media on sleep behavior

Lack of tiredness

Daylight has a major impact on our sleep-wake cycle. During the day, the sun emits a lot of “blue” light that keeps us awake and active. As it gets darker in the evening, the sleep hormone melatonin begins to be produced, which makes us tired and lets us fall asleep. Bright screens also emit large amounts of blue light, mimicking daylight, which slows down melatonin production in the evening and makes us more likely to stay awake by suppressing fatigue and falling asleep.

smartsleep Schlafmagazin Digitale Medien und Schlaf Farbspektrum von Sonnenlicht Tageslicht und LED Bildschirmlicht

Tip: Dim the room light a few hours before going to bed and try to avoid bright screens. Most smartphones and screens also allow you to activate a blue light filter function or wear glasses with special lenses that filter out blue light.

stress instead of relaxation

An exciting horror film that gets us excited or an adventurous video game that requires our full concentration activate our nervous system and can lead to excitement and a stress reaction in the body. Then we release more of the stress hormone cortisol, heart rate and blood pressure rise, our breathing gets faster and our body does everything it can to keep us awake, alert and efficient. As a result, we cannot rest and get in the mood for sleep, tiredness disappears and falling asleep is made significantly more difficult.

Less sleep

Digital and especially social media often tempt us to be online longer than we actually want. Various studies have shown that the happiness hormone dopamine is released when gaming and using social media. So every interaction on the smartphone or console reaches the reward system in our brain and tempts us to keep scrolling and seeing even more. For this reason, we quickly lose track of time when gaming or surfing on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube or TikTok, especially in the evening, and then often go to bed later than planned.

smartsleep Schlafmagazin Digitale Medien vor dem Schlaf Smartphone in der Nacht

Tip: Only use your bed to sleep, not to watch TV, and ideally ban your smartphone from the bedroom altogether. Schedule certain media and media-free times into your day and let the reminder functions, for example on Instagram itself or with the help of special apps, alert you to breaks after a certain period of use.

3. Tips for media consumption before bed


Whether on the computer, mobile phone or game console, gaming requires our interaction and concentration, allows us to experience it emotionally and in this way puts a strain on the brain and nervous system. Especially in exciting games with a high "thrill" factor, there are numerous stimuli in the nervous system. These so-called "arousels" sound like alarm bells in our brain and make us awake and alert. This suppresses the naturally occurring tiredness before going to bed and makes it rather difficult for us to fall asleep after an intensive gaming evening.

In a study at the German Sport University in Cologne, smartsleep® founder and sleep researcher Dr. Markus Dworak and his team show that intensive gaming in the evening really does lead to a longer sleep phase and less deep sleep than watching TV or a media-free time before bed. And memory performance was also reduced by gambling, so that test subjects who played games found it more difficult to remember certain things the next day than those test subjects who did not play video games before sleeping. In our 22. Podcast episode "How media influence sleep".

Tip: Try to avoid demanding and immersive games with a high thrill factor in the evening or take enough time to relax between the last game and going to bed. On the other hand, simple, less demanding games or puzzles are a good activity before going to bed.

We have listed the best sleep tips especially for gamers in this article.

TV & Streaming

Movies and series are a popular pastime and part of the routine for many people, especially in the evenings. Documentaries or light entertainment series that only demand casual attention can help us relax and calm down after a busy day, which has a positive effect on sleep and falling asleep. Exciting series with nasty cliffhangers, creepy thrillers or crime films, on the other hand, often let us get excited or puzzle over. Then our nervous system is highly active again and we are also tempted to watch episode after episode a little longer.

Tip: Instead of a series marathon, before you go to bed you can watch quiet documentaries or relaxed series that don't tax the brain too much and help you to calm down slowly. The TV should also not be in the bedroom so that your sleeping environment is used exclusively for sleeping.

Podcasts & Music

smartsleep Schlafmagazin Digitale Medien und Schlaf, Podcasts, Klänge, Geräusche, White Noise zum Einschlafen

Podcasts, music or certain sounds and noises can support the process of falling asleep and help you fall asleep better. Our hearing is also active during sleep and processes all acoustic stimuli in our environment at night. Soothing podcasts, bedtime stories or relaxing music can distract us from everyday stress, take our mind off things and help us fall asleep. However, the music shouldn't be too excited and the stories shouldn't be too complex and exciting, otherwise we'll listen more concentrated and think about the content. You can find detailed information about the effect of music or so-called white noise on sleep in this article.

Tip: Simple bedtime stories, white noises and special sleep sounds can be easily integrated into the evening routine to help you relax and fall asleep in a gentle way. It's best to use a sleep timer and keep the volume at a moderate level so that the music doesn't go on forever at night and possibly wake you up again.

Social Media

Communicating, socializing or comparing others on social media can quickly become addictive and tie us to our smartphone, tablet or notebook for hours. But if we hang on our smartphones forever in the evening and are exposed to the screen light, natural tiredness is often suppressed, we go to bed later and fall asleep less quickly because melatonin production is disrupted.

Tip: limit social media to certain times of the day, set reminders for breaks and ideally don't take your smartphone to bed at all.

4. Conclusion

  • Digital media can make it difficult to fall asleep and lead to a shorter sleep duration.
  • The impact of media depends on the content, type and timing of media consumption.
  • Exciting video games, series and podcasts keep us awake and disrupt the process of falling asleep
  • Soothing documentaries, bedtime stories or special sounds can contribute to relaxation and promote sleep.

Greetings and see you soon!

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