The Balance Between TV Time and Sleep: Why They Shouldn’t Go Together and What to Try Instead

At the end of a long day, nothing sounds better than curling up in bed and falling asleep to your favorite show on Netflix. Sleeping with the TV on often provides a sense of security and comfort. But can falling asleep with the TV on or watching TV before bed keep you from getting a good night’s sleep?

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Photo of a man sleeping on the touch with tv on and remote in hand

In short, yes, falling asleep with the TV on can negatively impact your sleep. Millions of Americans say, “I have to sleep with the TV on.” However, the blue light, sound, and content that television exposes you to can really harm your sleep stages. 

In this article, we will talk about what healthy sleep is, how TV can negatively affect that, and why you may be unable to fall asleep without the television. We will also look at alternatives you can try to break your TV habit and find healthy, relaxing sleep every night.

What Is Healthy Sleep?

Good, healthy sleep is vital to our overall physical and mental health. To be considered good sleep, your brain goes through various stages, including the rapid eye movement (also known as REM) stage. Each of these stages helps you stay healthy, physically and mentally.

Skipping any of these stages can have an impact on your well-being. Poor sleep health can acerbate mental issues like depression and anxiety. Physical problems, like an increased risk of high blood sugar and lower overall quality of life, can also result from poor sleep.

Why Sleeping With the TV on Is Detrimental to Your Health

If you’re here, you may be thinking, “is sleeping with the TV on bad?” A lot of research shows that, yes, it is that bad, even if you have sleep apnea or insomnia and use the TV to get any sleep. 

It comes down to the harm the television can do to your sleep stages, giving you less healthy sleep, which can cause other problems. 


While you may find the TV noise comforting as you’re going to bed, that noise may harm your sleep. Even at low volumes, the sounds from TV shows can prevent you from reaching the deep sleep that your body needs, as your brain will constantly be reacting to this stimulus. The noise can also cause you to wake up, interrupt vital sleep stages, or stop them from happening.


The light emitted from the TV screen can be more harmful to your sleep than the sound. While on, the screen emits blue light, just like phones and other electronic devices do. Blue light appears from the sun during the day and in very low levels during the night from the moon. The absence of blue light triggers our brains to produce melatonin, a sleep hormone.

If you see a lot of blue light during a time when your body is settling down, it suppresses the production of melatonin. The lack of this hormone can make it difficult to fall asleep. Melatonin also helps regenerate damaged cells while we sleep. Our bodies must get this hormone to be fully healthy and recuperate from daily life.

Adding artificial lights around our bodies when the body needs dark and quiet has long-term effects. Artificial lights suppress melatonin production, leading to several health problems. Things like anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and other physical ailments can get worse when sleep is impacted.

TV Content

Some people watch TV while they fall asleep to help with anxiety. The content you watch, however, may be providing the opposite effect.

Watching certain content may be stressful or stimulating for your brain. This stress or stimulation can activate your body’s sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system (also known as the SNS) is responsible for how your body reacts to dangerous or stressful situations.

 When triggered, the SNS increases your heart rate to bring more oxygen to the parts of your body that will help you escape danger. Feeling this rush of chemicals can make it difficult to fall asleep and even more difficult to stay asleep. It can also cause you to feel more anxious. Certain TV content can also lead to nightmares or night terrors. These keep you awake longer and add more stress to your nighttimes, creating a vicious cycle that harms your overall physical and mental health.

Turning the TV Off

Once you’ve started to rely on the TV to help you get to sleep, it can be tough to fall asleep with it turned off. The solution begins with identifying why you sleep with the TV on. From there, you can find alternatives to help you get the rest you need while keeping the TV off.

TV Addiction

For many, TV addiction can be the reason they sleep with the TV on. A good indication of a TV addiction is feeling low or down while watching TV but feeling the need to continue watching. A longing to watch and an inability to look away are also indicative of TV addiction.

As with any addiction, TV addiction can be difficult to overcome, but not impossible. Set limits or take the TV out of your room if you find the habit too hard to control. Speaking with a sleep expert or other counselor can also help you determine what you may be missing that you are relying on the TV to fill.

Anxiety Relief

Many people find relief in the noise and movement that comes from watching TV. It can create an escape from daily stresses and anxiety. While watching TV is a good form of entertainment, it is important to limit it so you don’t become dependent on it for emotional regulation. Though it may seem effective, sleeping with the TV on can worsen anxiety.

If you are living with anxiety, you can try reading a book, journaling, or creating a bedtime routine to help you relax before bed.

Soothing Sounds

Many of us need noise to fall asleep, which may seem backward to those who need absolute silence. Because white noise can be soothing for many, some people may begin to rely on the TV to fulfill that need. Finding a healthier source of white noise, you can take the TV out of the equation and strengthen your sleep.

Soothing Light

As with sound, the light of the TV can be a comfort. Sleep studies have shown that more than 40% of Americans sleep with a light or TV on, even though we sleep best in darkness.

Our bodies need a dark and quiet space to achieve the healthiest sleep possible. If you need light while you sleep, night lights are a perfect option. Night lights that use red, yellow, or warm-colored lights can be less disruptive to sleep patterns as they do not emit blue light.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sleeping With the TV On

Is it unhealthy to have a TV in your bedroom? 

Having a TV in your bedroom isn’t necessarily unhealthy. However, it can be tempting to keep the TV on while you’re sleeping. This is not a good habit to fall into. If you have trouble turning the TV off while you sleep, it may be best to remove it from your bedroom.

What can you do if your partner sleeps with the TV on?

Millions of Americans sleep with the television on at night. Even though it is a common habit, it is still unhealthy and will keep you from getting the rest you need. It’s best to find another way of falling asleep that doesn’t interfere with your sleep cycles throughout the night. 

Can sleeping with the TV on cause anxiety?

Television provides stimuli that can cause you to experience anxiety. Unexpected sounds and noises can put you on edge, especially when sleeping. The content of television shows or movies can also have a role in anxious feelings, nightmares, and unease while sleeping.

How can you tell if someone is addicted to TV?

If you think you have a TV addiction, pay attention to how you feel while watching television. If you feel unhappy or bored but can’t stop, that’s a strong indicator of an addiction. If you cannot complete other tasks because of your desire to watch TV, that is also a warning sign. 

What can I put in my bedroom instead of a TV?

You can put a night light, ambient light projector, or white noise machine in your bedroom to help you fall asleep at night. These are excellent at creating a calming environment that can help you sleep.

Why can’t I sleep unless the TV is on?

Changing your environment can cause sleeping problems. If you are used to sleeping with the television and suddenly stop, your subconscious may feel uncomfortable. The light and sounds of human voices can also make us feel less alone. If you are lonely at night, you may be using the TV as a source of connection. Try snuggling with a stuffed animal, pet, or partner instead.


Remember, a healthy night’s sleep is crucial to an overall healthy life. Lack of sleep can lead to many other problems, both mental and physical. Sleeping with the TV on can be a factor in preventing sound sleep. If you live with sleep apnea or insomnia, it is even more important to be proactive in getting the healthy sleep you deserve.  

It is easier said than done to keep the TV off at bedtime. Start small, if need be, by limiting screen time gradually. Find what works for you by identifying why you keep the TV on and what alternatives will work to help turn it off.

Hopefully, the key to your next good night’s rest starts here. Please reach out to us with any questions and visit our social media pages for more helpful tips and tricks!

Medical Disclaimer: The content on this page should not be taken as medical advice or used as a recommendation for any specific treatment. Always consult your doctor before making any decisions.

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