If you think that you are not sleeping as soundly as you used to, you are not alone. Blue light from smart phones, computers, tablets and televisions may be responsible for robbing us of a good night’s sleep. All visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum can disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm, but the short, high-energy wavelength of blue light is especially harmful.
According to Harvard Health, light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. Harvard researchers conducted an experiment to determine whether blue light suppressed melatonin more than another color of light of comparable brightness. After 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light and green light, the researchers found that the blue light suppressed melatonin twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms twice as much.
It’s starting to come together, isn’t it? It’s not just that late-night text that lights up your phone and jolts you awake; it’s the nature of blue light itself that makes it hard to go back to sleep. Kindles and Nooks are compact, eco-friendly and easy to keep on the nightstand for late-night reading, but you may notice that your e-reader does not bring on the Sandman like the old paperbacks. In fact, checking messages, logging into Facebook, watching the Late Show or reading a few chapters on your Kindle are probably the worst of nighttime routines when it comes to getting a full night’s rest (Source: ABC).
Blue light has been the subject of countless studies over the years, and there are proven medical side effects of overexposure. This tiny electromagnetic wave can affect eye health, sleep patterns, moods and emotions, and even the development of diseases such as diabetes and cancer. But before you toss your electronics in the trash, here are some practical tips to keep your eyes (and your body) safe from the harmful effects of blue light:
- Limit your exposure to electronic devices that emit blue light. If you spend the majority of your day in front of a screen, limit your screen time at home. Also, be aware of your children’s exposure to blue light and set clear boundaries.
- Charge your devices in a separate room from your bedroom. If you have a TV in your room and charge your devices without powering them down at night, you are surrounding yourself with blue light while you sleep.
- Power down electronics at a specific time each evening. Commit to being off your computer, phone or tablet at an exact time each night so you will get a better night’s rest.
- Get an app with a digital filter. There are many apps like the Twilight app that alters the screen’s shade according to the time of day. This minimizes blue light exposure at night and will not disrupt sleep patterns as much.
- Glasses with blue light blocker coating. If you need to watch TV to unwind at night, talk to your eye doctor about getting a clear coating on your eye glasses to block blue light.