Smartphones and tablets are so embedded in our daily lives that most of us are in the habit of bringing our devices to bed when going to sleep.
Many of us are guilty of using our phones while in bed – scrolling through social media, texting friends, or playing games.
You’re not alone, though; over 92% of phone owners in this research admitted to using their electronic devices before going to sleep.
Phone screens emit blue light, which studies have shown to induce alertness by suppressing melatonin production in our bodies.
This means blue light exposure before sleeping can increase the time it takes to fall asleep and decrease sleep efficiency.
As a result, you may feel groggy or tired after waking up, making it difficult for your body to fully come out of its early morning haze until later on during the day.
Read on to learn more about blue light and how it affects our bodies!
What is blue light, and how does it affect sleep?
Blue light is great for our body during the day, as it regulates the body’s circadian rhythm (our internal clock) and increases alertness.
This is because blue light is a high-energy light emitted by natural and artificial sources, including the sun.
So, blue light has the opposite effect on our body at night: it can make us less sleepy and more alert.
This affects our sleep cycle and reduces the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep stage, which is crucial for healthy sleep.
Hence, it is best to sleep with dim lights and avoid using mobile phones or other blue light-emitting electronic devices before bed.
It’s also a good idea to read something else (like a physical book) instead of scrolling through our endless social media feed!
What are some devices that emit blue light?
Blue light is emitted by any device that uses a blue LED. Some examples of popular devices with blue lights are televisions, tablets, smartphones, and laptops.
Blue LEDs have become the most common type used in electronics because they are very efficient energy-wise, making them optimal for electronic screens.
Other sources of artificial blue light include ambient light in your room from cool white fluorescent bulbs or LED lamps with a color temperature above 4000K (which emits bluish-white light).
As technology improves, this list of blue light-emitting devices grows.
However, device manufacturers are aware of the effects of blue light on sleep, and there has been a shift towards reducing blue light emission from devices to help sleep.
One example is the Kindle Paperwhite e-readers, designed with lighting that makes it almost paper-like in appearance with very little blue light.
Another example is cell phones with a Dark Mode (Android) or Night Shift mode (iPhone), which reduces blue light and changes to warmer screen color, allowing better sleep, especially if you use your phone before bed.
Is exposure to blue light always bad?
No, blue light is important for regulating our body’s circadian rhythm, and it can be beneficial in waking us up during the day.
However, as the evening progresses, too much blue light exposure can negatively affect our sleep cycle.
Do electronic devices affect children?
Yes. Blue light from electronic screens can affect children’s sleep patterns as well.
As children develop, their eyes are more sensitive to blue light exposure, and it has been shown that children who use devices more than one hour before bedtime have a higher risk of delayed sleep onset and less total nighttime sleep.
If you have a child or a teenager, make sure they don’t use any electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime.
Tips to reduce blue light exposure before sleep
- Set a bedtime routine and remove screen time – Although it can be hard to fully cut out device use in the evening, it is a good idea to limit using your electronics for an hour or two before going to bed.
- Dim the lights – Turn off any LED lamps or overhead lights in your room. If you keep dozing off before turning off the light, try using a smart light bulb with a timer.
- Reduce screen brightness – Reducing your device’s backlight intensity in the evening can greatly decrease blue light emission and help you fall asleep faster.
- Turn on night filters for smartphones – Use apps that allow you to turn on a filter (‘Night mode’ on Android devices or ‘Night Shift’ on Iphones) designed to remove the glare from the screen and provide a warm temperature display.
- Install blue-light filter for screens – Laptop monitors or TV screens can have blue-light filters installed on them so that the screen emits less bluish light. There are also free apps you can use such as F.lux.
- Use blue light blocking glasses for sleep – In the evening, wear blue light blocking glasses or amber lens glasses designed specifically to reduce the blue light your eyes absorb.
- Check your light bulbs – Cool white fluorescent bulbs or LED lamps with a ‘Cool White’ temperature contains high amounts of blue light; opt for light bulbs with warmer color temperatures for bedrooms.
- Read physical books or use an e-reader – Physical books are always preferred to screen time as they have zero artificial blue light and will help you wind down before bed. Alternatively, you can use an e-reader such as a Kindle Paperwhite, which has minimal blue light emission.
- Listen to podcasts or meditate – If reading books are not your thing, you can always opt for podcasts, audiobooks, or even meditation to relax before you sleep.
- Install blackout curtains – Using blackout curtains will ensure you sleep in a pitch-black environment which is ideal for quality sleep. As an added bonus, you can detect and turn off any traces of light from your electronics.
Tech has a way of messing with our sleep, and it’s time we paid attention. Blue light is great for us during the day, as it regulates the body’s circadian rhythm and increases alertness.
But all good things come with a little bad; our bodies are not fans of the blue light emitted by screens. They can make us less sleepy and more alert, making it harder to fall asleep at night.
Letting go of using your mobile phone or tablet can be tough, but the poor sleep you get from the bright light can affect you more than you think.
If you want to get the most out of your sleep, you should give the methods in this article a try to see if it works for you.
Have a good night!