Halloween is a time for pumpkin carving, dressing up, and of course, scaring. However, it is important to keep your health in mind during the holidays, especially your sleep health.

Studies have shown that scary movies can have both short-term and long-term effects on a person’s life, especially children. In fact, the younger the viewer, the longer the violent or graphic media may provoke symptoms such as night terrors, shaking and obsessive thinking. One in four university-level students can recall a specific scary movie they watched as a child, but probably shouldn’t have.

Younger children are more prone to nightmares, but adults can still experience them. However, they may not be a direct result of the film, but rather the time at which it is watched. As a form of stimuli, movies do not help to turn the brain “off” or ease into a relaxed state. Television and computer screens emit blue light, which reduces melatonin levels and consequently the amount of time someone spends in REM sleep.

In addition, Halloween is a time when delicious treats and candy seem to be everywhere: a coworker’s desk, the supermarket checkout lane, and even the waiting room of the local carwash. Although sugar is not a stimulant that causes hyperactivity, it can still significantly impact sleep by causing fluctuations in blood sugar levels. As with all foods, moderation is key, but in this case, it is also worth considering the time of day when consuming sweets.

Here are some tips to avoid sleep disruptions this Halloween season:

  • Don’t watch movies or TV shows right before trying to fall asleep
  • If a movie is too graphic or scary, avoid letting younger children view it
  • Try to keep a consistent bedtime and set an alarm for the same time each morning
  • Avoid overeating refined sugar or processed carbohydrates, especially in the evening