Screen Time Overload and Scientific Aromatherapy

September 19th 2019

by Amy Pereira BS, CHNC, RYT-200, C-MI

Despite the amazing technological advancements that benefit us, there’s a delicate balance to strike and a time and a place to put down the tech. A recent study from Common Sense Media shows that screen time use for entertainment is at an all-time high for both children and adults alike. According to their research, today’s innately tech-savvy children from 12-18 years of age spend an average of 9 hours a day in front of their electronics while those from 8-12 years log 6 approximately hours of daily screen time. Even the screen time of those 8 years old and younger has risen to nearly an hour a day.

Many healthcare professionals feel that appropriate screen time should be something to the effect of a few hours a day. Time spent in excess of these hours can have adverse socioemotional and physical health implications including, but surely not limited to eye strain, sleep-wake cycle disruption, “text neck” and additional unhealthy posture changes and physiological effects. Although most of us know that it’s in our best interest to minimize the time that we spend staring at a screen, so many of us too regularly fall short of this goal.

With this shortcoming in mind, here are just some of the many things you can do to assist with tuning out, turning it off, and dropping into delicious downtime and deep restful sleep when you’re not aiming for alert!

1) Disengage from devices (phones, computers, tablets, e-readers, etc.) at least one but ideally two or more hours before your head hits the bed. The short-wavelength blue light that’s emitted from screens (and fluorescent bulbs and LED lights as well as the sun) more significantly affects our sleep hormone, melatonin, than any other color/wavelength. Normally, the brain’s pineal gland begins to release sleep-inducing melatonin a few hours before bedtime but blue light exposure after sunset can delay or disrupt the pineal gland’s melatonin release, causing a reset of the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) to a later schedule and increased nighttime alertness. In addition to taking longer to fall asleep, REM sleep (dreamtime) may also be minimized and result in difficulty waking or increased fatigue and grogginess upon arising. This is especially problematic for teens, whose circadian rhythms are already naturally shifting; resulting in even greater feelings or ‘jet lag’ and a lack of focus and interest that can accompany fatigue and insufficient restful sleep. 1,2 Minimizing evening exposure to sleep-disruptive blue light may minimize adverse effects upon melatonin production so, if you do read after sundown, consider print versions of your reading materials. If not choosing print versions, then dim the screen light, select the nighttime feature on your device and consider blue light blocking glasses.   Blue light blocking eyewear is available with prescription, over-the-counter magnification or zero magnification lenses and can be purchased through various brick and mortar and online locations.

2) Creating a boundary to avoid working while in bed can help the body to associate the bedroom with rest, sleep, or activities other than business duties. Hint: this may also have a beneficial effect on healthy libido. Do keep in mind, though, that it can take a few weeks to establish a new pattern, to train the body to adjust to healthy new habits and to begin to reap results so don’t give up after just a week or two if not seeing immediate benefits!

3) Get outside daily and consider vitamin D level testing. Not only does the vitamin D that we make through sun exposure (and gain through ingestion) assist with bone health, it can also support healthy sleep and wake cycles and affect nociception or “pain receptor” activity by playing a role in mediating inflammation responses. To compound any nutrient deficiencies, sleep and REM deprivation is also related to abnormally increased sensitivity to pain.3,4 Although research is still exploring the relationship between vitamin D levels and human health, it’s clear that getting out into the sunshine for a short and appropriate amount of time can have some far-reaching beneficial effects on many bodily systems.

4) Avoid caffeine approximately 6 hours prior to retiring for the evening.5 Although this substance may be a driving force in our rise and shine routine, reliance upon its central nervous system stimulation and excessive intake can take a toll and rob us of healthy sleep. In addition to pick-me-up effects, coffee or other caffeinated beverages may come with some health benefits but be sure to allow ample time for its metabolism and consider a cup of refreshing peppermint or a nourishing and adrenal supportive herbal tea in the afternoon so that caffein’s stimulating effects don’t rob you of your precious zzz’s.

5) Schedule sleep time rituals that set the stage for healthy rest. This may look different for each individual but could be something as simple as beginning any combination of the following a couple of hours before bedtime: sipping a cup of warm caffeine-free organic chamomile lavender tea, doing some light stretches or restorative yoga, enjoying a warm bath or shower, dimming the lights throughout the home, breaking out a light read, playing some delta brainwave music or listening to a recorded sleep meditation.

6) Aim to avoid eating too close to bedtime (and be mindful of what you ingest if you do) as digestive difficulties due to indigestion can wreak havoc with restful sleep.

7) Discussing supplementation with your healthcare provider, as magnesium, vitamin D, B-complex vitamins, nervine herbs, essential oil capsules or other supplements that are designed for safe internal use may assist with restful sleep by calming the nervous system, minimizing leg cramps or supporting you in other areas that may present challenges and stand In the way of a good night’s sleep and a healthy you! Hint: Poor rest can affect stress and cortisol levels too and play a role in sabotaging efforts to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, healthy weight, healthy mood and more!

8) Consider a few drops of an organic essential oil or wellness blend that’s safe for use in the diffuser, on the pillow, or for topical application on the body. Inhalation or topical application of the precious essential oil chemicals that are derived from organic plants can elicit many physiological benefits including calm, alertness, focus and mood improvement. When seeking to soothe frazzled nerves and induce sweet sleep, try French lavender, Roman chamomile clary sage, cardamom, bergamot, hops, spikenard, sweet marjoram or vetiver which are known to contain phytochemicals that are suited for the job. If the day’s work is still ahead, then you may find focus or maintain a sense of mental clarity through peppermint, rosemary, spearmint or citruses like lemon or grapefruit. If collecting single notes and blending your own formulas is not your cup of tea, then seek wellness blends that are professionally formulated to aid sleep, bust stress, uplift, and support mood. Note: Some essential oils and blends can even be used by little ones but be sure to choose an oil or blend that is safe for or specifically designed for babies and, as always, discuss the use of essential oil and supplements with your doctor, pediatrician and healthcare provider any time you wish to introduce new items into your (or those you care for) health care regimen.

9) Last but not least, breathwork! Can be done alone or coupled with essential oils but breathwork that aims to lengthen the exhalation can support the vagus nerve to release the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, that can aid in supporting a calm restful state of mind, a healthy heart and numerous additional benefits.6

Setting the stage for proper sleep and wake cycles and healthy patterns can begin at any age. Keep in mind that most of these tips involve dietary and lifestyle choices. Healthy habits start at home and in our youth—but it’s never too late to choose to work on forming new health-supportive habits!


For more tips and tricks on ways to use essential oils, hydrosols, and virgin plant oils in your Scientific Aromatherapy applications, join us for one (or more) of Pranarom’s monthly webinars. To register, email Education@Pranarom.us to be added to the list of invitees. You can also visit Pranarom’s website here.

 

References

  1. (2019, May 31). How blue light affects your children’s sleep. Retrieved from https://blog.providence.org/archive/how-blue-light-affects-your-children-s-sleep
  2. (n.d.). The Sneaky Ways That Blue Light Can Interfere With Your Kids’ Sleep. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-blue-light-affects-kids-sleep
  3. Mead, M. N. (2008, April). Benefits of sunlight: a bright spot for human health. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/
  4. Oliveira, D. L. de, Hirotsu, C., Tufik, S., & Andersen, M. L. (2018, August 3). The interfaces between vitamin D, sleep and pain in: Journal of Endocrinology Volume 234 Issue 1 (2017). Retrieved from https://joe.bioscientifica.com/view/journals/joe/234/1/R23.xml
  5. Drake, C., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J., & Roth, T. (2013, November 15). Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed. Retrieved from http://jcsm.aasm.org/viewabstract.aspx?pid=29198
  6. May 9, 2019 Longer Exhalations Are an Easy Way to Hack Your Vagus Nerve. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201905/longer-exhalations-are-easy-way-hack-your-vagus-nerve?fbclid=IwAR3iX5G-C6-EspLPbF4SzVc61sRESB0cQev2VSkujpI-S8A–1e8UypSDmE