There’s a reason doctors advise to avoid looking at your phone in bed before sleeping. The say last-minute email checking, scrolling through Facebook, and watching Netflix in bed can hurt your sleep. For a good reason too.
What Is Blue-Light And Why Does It Hurt Our Sleep
The light emitted from screens of electronics such as your laptop, phone, or TV stimulates your retina and tricks your brain into thinking its daylight, causing you to stay awake at night.
You may consciously know that it is nighttime, but subconsciously, your nervous system thinks the sun is at its peak high in the sky. The excessive light stimulation after sunset triggers a cascade of neurophysiological changes that can make detrimental impact to your mental and physical health even if you aren’t aware of it.
The most common light that can trick your mind into thinking its still daytime is blue-light. Blue-light is the light emitted from your phones, your laptop, and TV. Blue-light has a very short wavelength meaning it has a very strong concentration of energy which is why our eyes are so sensitive to it.
Bluelight can be beneficial at certain times during the day. For example, when used in the morning can help wake you up – to the stress response it puts on your system, it can give you more energy and ultimately make you more alert. When exposed at night however, blue-light after the sunset will suppress melatonin production (the substance our body produces to make us feel sleepy) and can increase the chance of poor sleep latency (keeping you asleep). Eventually if exposed for too long can lead to insomnia.
So, blue-light is good during the day, but bad during the night.
Sources Of Blue-Light
Where can blue-light be found? Sources of blue-light can be everywhere. Actually, as the light from the sun penetrates the atmosphere, short/high-intensity blue wavelengths of the spectrum crash with air molecules. This crash gives way to the scattering of blue light in all directions around us. Interestingly enough, blue-light allows us to perceive the sky as having a “blue color”. Cool, huh?
As a natural source, the sun allows us to feel alert and awake during the day.
The problem lies in hand when we are exposed to too much artificial sources of blue-light. Blue-light is generated from modern-day technology too, usually in the form of digital screens. TV, laptop, phone, all emit blue-light and its best to try and avoid blue-light during the night as explained above. Also, the light bulbs in your house emit blue-light wavelengths as well (1, 2).
Blue-light blocks the release of melatonin from the pineal gland. Naturally we produce melatonin when following our body’s natural rhythym (rising with the sun, calming down when the sun set is setting and going to sleep not too long after).
As stated above, disruption of melatonin secretion can lead to poor sleeping problems. I personally have experieced this. Your testosterone will drop when sleep suffers and mood throughout the day will be a mix of grogginess and lack of ambition. Not the kind of mindset you want, right?
So, What Can You Do About It?
The best way to go would be to avoid electronics around nighttime or more realistically, limit their use. If that’s not possible, installing simple and free blue-light blocking programs on your phone and laptop can be very beneficial. For iPhones there is a built-in setting called “night shade” that you can set to turn on when the sun goes down. It will put a slight, warm red-hue on the screen. For android, a free app called “Twillight” works very well too. And for computers, there is a program called f.lux which is very effective in blocking out most of the blue-light. They’re all free, don’t worry ;). It’s your choice to install them to improve your sleep, your stress, and therefore your life.
For those serious about blocking out blue-light, certain glasses have blue-light blocking lenses. The ones that I am using are relatively inexpensive from amazon. They block out about most of the blue-light emitted from electronics and they don’t look half as bad ;). Also, there is evidence showing that they can reduce eye strain when staring at the screens of electronics (3). So, using them as computer glasses might not be a bad thing either.
Another you can look into is “Hue Lighting”. Lights-bulbs that emit light spectrum that correlate with the time of the day. During sunset, the sun projects red light, which is known for its calming effects. These red lights can truly help you relax during the night and very easy to install. Simply purchasing an inexpensive but effective light-bulb that is capable of hue lighting, and controlling it on your phone (hue lighting app) can be a sure-fire way to block out the blue-light from conventional light-bulbs and get you in a relaxed state before hitting the hay.
Wrapping it up, the harsh rays emitted by blue-light during the night can lead to sleeping problems and an increase in s
tress which can be why you wake up during the night or have sleeping problems. Limiting use can be very beneficial to those with sleeping problems or higher stress and anxiety but also some new technology has made it possible for us to continue to use electronics and enjoy movies with friends later into the night. Blue-light blocking glasses, f.lux for computer screens, twillight and night shade for phones, and hue lighting all help.
One Last Thing
Thank you all for reading this, I truly hope you found it of good information. If you found this article useful and enjoyed it – please share it! Share it with someone who spends too much time on their phone late at night ;).