How the blue light from your smartphones and tablets is affecting your sleep cycles

Phone in the dark

It goes without question that smartphones and tablets have infiltrated our lives. They have improved our lives in many ways, but the reality is they haven’t been in existence, with this kind of mass adoption, for more than a decade. More and more studies are showing that our smartphones, tablets, laptops and any other device with a display are having a negative effect on our quality of sleep at night.

It turns out that blue light is one of the major culprits behind this problem. That’s why the iPhone, iPad and Note 7 have integrated blue light reduction filters for night time use. It’s also something we will see in more phones in the near future.

Why regular sleep is needed for optimal health

“Sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles, and reduced interactions with surroundings.” – Wikipedia

Sleep is when our bodies recuperate from being awake. It’s when our body repairs itself from stress, eating bad food, exercise, so we can take on the next day with full energy. It’s been documented that lack of proper sleep can lead to a wide range of health deficits as adults. For adolescents, sleep is even more important. Sleep has a direct correlation on a child’s ability to perform cognitive functions, meaning the less sleep a child gets, the harder daily activities and learning will be.

What is blue light and why it is a problem at night

Blue light isn’t always bad. We get plenty of blue light during the day which is produced by the Sun. It’s what tells our brains and bodies that it is daytime. Logically if you think about it, during the day the sky is full of blue. As the day passes and the sun sets, the blue is replaced by the orange and red sunset, and once the sun goes down we are left with no light.

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When our smartphones put out blue light, our brains think it is still daytime and the chemical that helps us sleep, melatonin, is suppressed. A deficiency in melatonin reduces our ability to sleep effectively which is why melatonin is barely detectable in the body during daylight hours.

From the age of five years through the end of life, most people require a minimum of seven solid hours of sleep, with some requiring up to 11 hours.

Lack of sleep can lead to health issues such as:

  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • mood disorders
  • reduced immune function
  • decreased sex drive
  • shorter life expectancy

How to fix the problem

The easiest solution is to simply turn off your gadgets after sunset. The reality almost none of us want to do that, nor do we have the willpower to resist a phone call or text. We rely heavily on our devices and turning them off every single night for the rest of our lives is most likely not an option.

If you’re fortunate enough to own the latest Note 7 or iPhone, there is a feature built into both devices that automatically reduces the blue light emitted from your smartphone. Simply go to the settings within your smartphone and turn on your blue light filter.

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You can see the orangeish tint in the image above on my Note 7. In the first few days of usage, I found the display to be rather dull. However I did notice far less strain on my eyes. I can’t speak to the quality of my sleep, as I have a wide variety of other factors that contribute to my own sleep issues. When I wake up at 5am, one of the first things I do is check my smartphone and the filter definitely makes it easier on my eyes. I no longer have to squint to look at my Note 7.

You can download blue light filter apps from the Google Play Store like the highly rated Twilight app. It can adjust your display by adding a red filter over it, and it works across all devices, including those with AMOLED displays. There are also physical filters that you can use on your smartphones from places like Amazon, but these filters will filter out all of your blue light out no matter what time of day it is. I’d recommend one of these physical screen filters for children as proper sleep is a must-have for them.

Also be aware, if you have a TV in your bedroom that also emits blue light as well.

Now that you’re aware of the blue light being an issue, it’s truly up to you how you want to handle it. If you’re getting deep and restful sleep as it is, then there is no need to change. But if you’re constantly sleepy, and you’re health is degrading, try one of the solutions above. It might help you improve your health.

 

 

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