Do you use your smartphone, tablet, or computer leading up to bedtime? If you said yes, you are among the 95% of people who said they use some form of electronic device, whether it's a smartphone, tablet, or television, within an hour before sleeping.
Unfortunately, these devices can emit blue light, interfering with our natural sleep cycles. Reducing the amount of exposure to blue light leading up to bedtime is a vital way to get your body naturally ready for sleep.
Statistics: One out of five say they send or receive work-related emails before bed.
What is Blue Light?
Blue light is a piece of the visible light spectrum. It can have impacts on our sleep cycles, hormone production and alertness.
The most common sources of blue light are found in our televisions, computers, tablets, and smartphones. These newfound sources of blue light in our daily lives are causing us to drown in a sea of blue and have arguably tipped the balance of our blue light exposure to a point of real concern.
While blue light is not inherently unhealthy—in fact, it has various medical benefits—overexposure has been argued to knock our circadian rhythms off-kilter and lead to decreased levels of good health.
How Does Blue Light Affect Sleep?
In short, yes, blue light can affect your sleep, but blue light isn’t bad. Blue light can keep you awake as it decreases the body’s release of melatonin, which is the hormone that makes us tired and feels drowsy. While this may be valuable during the earlier parts of the day, it becomes unhelpful at night when we’re getting ready to sleep.
Exposure to blue light tricks your mind into thinking that it's still daylight hours and causes you to be more alert, thus making it harder to fall asleep and get good rest at night.
Blue Light Unhealthy
Blue light, even from artificial sources such as your chosen form of digital devices (iPhone, TV, computer, tablet, etc.), is not inherently bad. The light these devices emit can help promote proper melatonin production, increased mood, and heightened alertness, in addition to a healthy weight and adrenal function.
Overexposure to blue light can lead to health problems. The obvious insight is the effect it has on our eyes while we are looking at blue light. But it also greatly affects us while our eyes are closed and we’re trying to sleep. It’s also been linked to issues including blurred vision, cataracts, dry eye, eye fatigue, and digital eyestrain.
Blue Light and Sleep
Are you aware that people spend roughly an average of 7 hours a day on electronic devices? Now, that's a lot of time staring at blue light. Another study suggests that nine out of ten people reach for their electronic devices before bed each night. It's recommended to stop reaching for your electronic device before bedtime.
Below is a list of devices that emit blue light:
- Fluorescent bulbs
- Computer monitors
- Gaming systems
- LED lights
How to Reduce Blue Light
The most effective strategy to reduce blue light exposure is to simply turn off the devices. But, any combination of one or all of these tips will help you find your sleep switch and start sleeping great right away.
Blue Light Filters
Tech companies know all about the negative effects of blue light on health and are doing their part to stay ahead of the curve and make sure you augment the way you spend your time on their devices, not the amount of time.
If you can’t limit the time you spend on your device, limit the amount of blue light your device spends on you.
How to Lower Blue Light on iPhone
There are functions on most Apple products, PCs and Smartphones that enable you to filter the amount of blue light you are exposed to. It is called Night Shift on Apple products.
You'll want to go to the settings on your iPhone or iPad and click on display and brightness. Then you'll see Night Shift settings. You can easily adjust the screen temperatures on the iPhone or iPad to a warmer color, which filters out the blue light.
You can follow the same steps for our Mac computer, to limit the exposure to blue light. Both filters are absolutely amazing augmentations if you absolutely have to use your technology at night.
Set a Technology Schedule
I know this isn’t always the easiest in the age of information, but sometimes we need to schedule time apart. Just the same way we set parameters in any other arena of our lives to maximize efficiency, so too should we set a schedule on the amount of time we spend on our electronic devices. Set an alarm that reminds you that it’s time to turn off your devices. This can be done 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Digital Device Detox
Many have suggested that your bedroom should be a space free of digital interaction. Instead of interacting with your device, I propose that you let your device interact with you. By taking advantage of the latest sleep tracking apps and devices you can benefit from healthy technology while maintaining your natural circadian rhythms.
I’d like to end with one bonus suggestion.
Trade out your time with blue light by literally giving yourself the red light. Replace your bedroom lamps that have bright light bulbs with warmer orange or red lights, or turn the lights off altogether and enjoy an old-fashioned evening by candlelight. This will help you relax and get a great night’s sleep!
If you’re struggling to achieve deep sleep, reducing blue light hours before bedtime -- keep your bedroom tidy, dim the lights, and keep the bedroom cool and dark.