Jasmine Han, PharmD Candidate
With ever developing technology, people are surrounded more and more by various electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and TV screens. Of particular note, smartphones have become an integral part of our daily activities, as they’re used for communication as well as various other activities available via apps. Though seemingly harmless, they may be contributing to issues with sleep.
Blue light emission from electronic devices
Light-emitting diodes (LED) displays are used in many electronics and light bulbs as they lower energy consumption and prolong the lifespan of devices.1 However, their benefits come at a cost. Most devices with LED displays emit significant amounts of blue light.1,2 Blue light is associated with controlling alertness and regulating the internal body clock (circadian rhythm) and is a component of the light we receive from the sun.2 Recent studies have shown that exposure to blue light at night affects our body’s ability to stay awake and sleep. When our bodies detect blue light, it suppresses the production of melatonin in the in the brain, which controls our sleep and wake cycles.2,3 This can lead to changes in our mood, productivity and fatigue as a result of worsened sleep.2
So are you saying I shouldn’t use my phone and computer?
Not necessarily. There are several approaches you can take to minimise the effects of blue light on your sleeping pattern.
#1 Minimize nighttime use of electronic devices
The easiest and the most cost-effective way to do this is by avoiding or minimising the time spent on electronic devices with LED displays before bedtime.1,2 If you struggle to sleep at night, try putting away all electronic devices and turning off all the lights about 1-2 hours before bedtime.2
#2 Wear glasses that block blue light
Another way to minimise your exposure is to wear eyewear with amber lenses to filter blue light. It’s a safe and affordable way to improve your sleep quality as well as improve your mood.4,5 To see these benefits, you’d wear these glasses for about two hours before bedtime for roughly a week.4,5 With no side effects associated, this is something you could easily add to your daily sleep routine.4,5
#3 Apply screen filters (F.lux,® Apple Night Shift®)
If you have a hard time putting your phone away before sleeping or don’t want to spend the money to purchase glasses, you can try applying screen filters on your devices. Apple® products often offer a feature called “Night Shift” that reduces the amount of blue light emitted by the screen during evening hours. There are also various other apps and software you can download if your devices don’t offer these features. The verdict on how well these apps work is still mixed, but with the limited harm it can do, you may want to give it a try.
Lacking good quality sleep can affect all of us, but unfortunately, we live in a world where electronics and bright screens always surround us. Besides what we’ve mentioned today, other methods for improving sleep can include minimising your caffeine intake during the day and trying various relaxation methods to help you wind down for the night. If you’re the napping type, you may want to check out our piece on how to nap effectively to see how you can restore energy in the day without altering your sleep cycle.
We hope that you were able to take away some helpful information from this article. As always, contact your healthcare practitioner if you need additional support. Don’t forget to reach out to us on Instagram, Facebook or at email@example.com if you have any questions, concerns or feedback on how we’re doing.
- Hep J, Kim K, Fava M, Mischoulon D, Papakostas G, Jeon H, et al. Effects of smartphone us with and without blue light at night in healthy adults: A randomized, double-blind, cross-over, placebo-controlled comparison. Journal of Psychiatric Research [serial on the Internet]. (2017, Apr 1), [cited March 3, 2018]; 8761-70.
- Device Light Disturbs Sleep. Science Teacher [serial on the Internet]. (2017, Oct), [cited March 2, 2018]; 84(7); 18-21. Available from: Education Research Complete.
- Esaki Y, Kitajima T, Tsuchiya A, Hirose M, Iwata N, Nakao Y, et al. Wearing blue light-blocking glasses in the evening advances circadian rhythms in the patients with delayed sleep phase disorder: An open-label trial. Chronobiology International [serial on the Internet]. (N.d.), [cited March 2, 2018]; 33(8): 1037-1044.
- Ayaki M, Yoshimura M, Kitazawa M, Negishi K, Tsubota K, Nakano M, et al. Protective effect of blue-light shield eyewear for adults against light pollution from self-luminous devices used at night. Chronobiology International [serial on the Internet]. (2016, Jan 2), [Cited March 2, 2018] 33(1); 134-139.