Ditch Your Digital Devices at Night
The average American spends over 10 hours a day looking at some form of a screen. If that number seems staggeringly high, just pay attention to how often you look at a computer, television, or smart phone. Studies have found that adults typically look at their phones about once every 7 minutes! But, how exactly is looking at a screen affecting your sleep? It turns out it’s not just the content you’re looking at, but also the color of the light emitted from the screen keeping you from getting a restful night’s sleep.
Melatonin and Blue Light
Melatonin is a hormone that helps to regulate your 24-hour biological clock, also known as circadian rhythm. This means it tries to synchronize your sleep schedule with the day-night cycle so you’re awake during the day and asleep at night. The blue light from digital screens has been shown to interfere with the release of melatonin.
This blue light can also be found in many of the energy-saving LED and CFL lightbulbs that are becoming more popular. Traditional bulbs have emitted more yellow light which does not interfere with melatonin synthesis and release the same way.
Blocking the Blue
So, what can we do to reduce the amount of blue light we are exposed to? One easy way is to wear blue-blocking glasses for a couple of hours before bed. There are several brands that are lightweight and specifically designed to wear comfortably before bed without impairing your vision.
There are also some free tools you can download to your computer that will automatically adjust the colors emitted by your screen to sync with the sunrise and sunset in your area. These apps tint your screen to emit a more yellow hue and cut out most of the blue. Some smart phones have added this feature as well. Just check in the settings of your smartphone to find out!
If you don’t want to download an app or wear a pair of glasses, you can just avoid these blue light emitting devices. Create a curfew for your devices and find an activity that doesn’t involve them, like reading a book. Try charging your phone somewhere besides your side table so you aren’t tempted.
As we have become more dependent on the use of digital screens, our bodies haven’t had time to adapt to what we perceive as increased daylight. We have to consciously make adaptive changes by limiting our exposure to this blue light in order to readjust to a more natural sleep-wake cycle.
In addition to these options, it’s generally recommended to simply avoid looking at screens for a minimum of 15 to 30 minutes prior to bed. This can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and promote a more restful night!