We all do it. We look at our phones and devices more than is strictly good for us. And I’m talking about our eyes and how they link to our health and wellbeing. Recently, scientists have been warning against using light-emitting devices like phones, tablets, laptops and even TV before bed.
Why would they want to spoil your fun?
Well, the light coming from your device is what they call ‘short-wavelength enriched. This means it has a higher concentration of blue light than natural light. The good news is that blue light helps to keep you awake in the day. The bad news is that we know that blue light affects the levels of sleep-inducing melatonin in our bodies more than any other wavelength. Normally, melatonin is present in our bodies in small amounts during the day, starts to increase in the hours before bedtime, and then peaks in the middle of the night. Exposure to light in the early evening causes a delay in this melatonin increase and rests your internal clock to a later schedule. You’ve probably experienced this after a few late nights. Exposure to blue light that comes from our devices makes this even worse.
If you think about blue-light exposure as a stressor to our system, it’s becoming clear that stressors that affect our body clocks can have more serious consequences that we previously thought.
If you expose yourself to blue-light at bedtime, this can reduce the amount of melatonin in your system, which can affect your sleep – both length of sleep and quality. Shifts in your body clock as a result of disrupted sleep can have devastating effects because it not only affects your wakefulness and attention, but it also affects how your body’s organs function. It looks like the effects of blue light go well beyond that evening and into the following morning. On average, it will take you longer to fall asleep, you have less REM sleep (the part of sleep where you dream), you’ll take longer to wakeup and feel sleepier when you do.
So, how can you manage this. The best solution is to minimise your exposure to blue light when preparing for bed – a good couple of hours before bed. And no night-time checking of social media J
You can also manage the brightness of your device, and also there are ways to filter out the short-wavelength blue light in the evenings. iOS devices can do this through using Night Shift mode.
There is a similar feature on Android devices called Night Shift: Blue Light filter:
f.lux does a great job of filtering out blue light on your Mac:
And SunsetScreen can do the job for PC users
So, the best advice is to minimise your exposure to blue light if you want to get a good night’s sleep – and the health and attention benefits that come with that. But if you must use your device, hopefully you can use some of the ways suggested above to minimise your exposure and make a good night’s sleep more likely.
Do you use any tweaks or apps to minimise your blue light exposure? What works for you? Do comment below to share your tips, tricks and views.
treadsoftly loves fitness and wellbeing - all those years of school and training were worth something after all. Blogging every Tuesday about technology related to wellbeing, let me know if there's a topic you’d like me to cover. You can find out more about me at sarbjohal.com including podcasts and other stuff.