How Basking in Blue Light is Affecting Your Sleep

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Modern technology demands the attention of college students. YouTube videos, emails, online assignments and social media platforms are just some of the reasons why students spend so much time looking at a screen. It’s easy to see how laptops, tablets and smartphones have woven their way into the fabric of students’ daily lives.

The time spent looking at a brightly lit screen begins to take a darker turn when technology is used before bedtime. Unnatural light from screens such as TVs, laptops, or smartphones close to bedtime can prevent the average student from receiving adequate rest. This leads to impaired and reduced cognitive function the next day and long-term negative consequences over time.

Read below to learn more about how blue light is impacting your sleep. 

1. It decreases your sleep hormone, melatonin.

This hormone controls when you sleep and when you wake up. Before bed, the pineal gland in the brain starts to release melatonin. Devices such as laptops, tablets and phone screens all emit blue light, which is proven to delay the release of this sleep hormone. What is the result? Our internal body clock is thrown off and we sleep less, causing us to potentially experience other associated negative health effects as well.

2. It increases alertness.

The blue light acts as sunlight which can keep you wide awake and alert, causing a mini jet lag. When individuals use their electronic devices to read or watch videos, it increases their alertness, which will then delay the time it will take them to fall asleep when they want to go to bed.

3. It resets the body’s internal clock.

Your circadian rhythm uses light to sync your body with the day-night patterns of the outside world. The sunrise in the morning stimulates your body to wake up and the sunset in the evening prepares your body to release melatonin and go to sleep. As you increase screen time and stay up later, your circadian rhythm is thrown off and you tend to have less deep REM sleep (“rapid eye movement”) and wake up feeling sleepier even if you have slept seven to nine hours.

4. It has a short wavelength and a higher color temperature.

Blue light has a shorter wavelength that affects levels of melatonin more than other light wavelengths. Blue light has a higher color temperature (above 3200 – 4000 Kelvin) and stimulates alertness while reddish tones appear “warm” and usually have color temperature (lower than 3200 Kelvin).

5. It can damage your retina.

Blue light reaches deep in your eyes beneath your macula and can affect your cells and blood vessels. Constant and cumulative exposure to blue light can cause damage to your retina and has the potential to slowly lead to the development of AMD or age-related macular degeneration (distortion or loss of central vision).

Sleep Tips for You

  1. Create a digital curfew. Try to limit exposure to glowing monitors to one or two hours before bedtime.  
  2. Install Iris or f.lux on electronic devices. Both the Iris and F.lux programs allow you to control the color temperature and how much blue light is emitted.  
  3. Dim the brightness of your devices after sunset. Use less light for activities in the evening, and try to avoid bright light altogether in the process of getting ready to sleep. Establish a predictable routine before bed – relaxing activities such as reading can help put you in a sleepy mood.  
  4. Opt for red and yellow light bulbs. Switch out your LED, fluorescent and blue bulbs in your bedroom with yellow or red bulbs, as the light that those bulbs emit has a longer wavelength and does not affect the release of melatonin.  

Make sleep one of your top priorities and unplug from technology at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Incorporate wind down activities such as reading, meditation, yoga or another relaxing technique to get your body ready for a good night’s rest. If you can sleep well and create a consistent schedule, you’ll find that it’ll benefit your overall health and well-being, making you happier, healthier and ready to tackle the next day ahead!