Sleep Tips

Blue Light Blues: Devices Can Disrupt Your Sleep

Many people relax before bed by scrolling through social media, streaming a TV show or playing a quick game on their phone or tablet. But, sleep experts say that bringing a smartphone or tablet into bed is actually counter-productive to your body winding down at night.

In fact, a 2012 report by the American Medical Association that found exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of electronic devices, can “disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders.”

What’s the Problem?

Last month on the Daily Doze, Sujay Kansagra, MD, director of Duke University’s Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program, wrote about the human body’s natural circadian rhythm and its impact on sleep. Basically, our internal clock helps us feel increasingly awake as the morning passes and then sleepy at night.

Our brains keep track of what time of day it is based on how much light we’re experiencing. Artificial light from smartphones, tablets, televisions, and other devices confuse our brains and suppress our natural processes that control sleepiness.

In a recent study on melatonin production, a team of endocrinologists found that the specific type of bright blue light that emits from smartphone and tablet displays is especially troublesome for our circadian rhythm. This same study found that the blue light from screen displays is so disruptive that even the bedtimes of visually impaired people can be affected by it.

It may feel relaxing to check email or Facebook before bed, but in reality, the light from our devices is tricking our brains into thinking it’s still light outside. The thing we’re doing to relax is actually signaling our brains to be active and alert.

Solution: Night Mode or Not at All

For those that are having a harder time of breaking the habit, both Apple and Android phones are equipped with “night modes” that are designed to reduce the brightness levels of your display in the hour or so leading up to bedtime. The screen will appear dimmer and colors will be less bright, but the benefit is that this is supposed to make the transition to nighttime easier on your body.

Although it’s likely that night modes do indeed make the transition to bedtime easier, it’s not yet known exactly how well they work. Clearly, even with reduced brightness, the screen is still emitting some amount of light and the content of the show, social media post, or article is still going to engage your brain and make it more difficult to sleep.

The simplest and best solution to this problem is to just not bring your device into bed with you, or to give yourself at least 30 minutes of screen-less time before trying to fall asleep. We know it can be a challenge, but the Daily Doze will still be here for you tomorrow morning. It can be like taking off a band-aid, and Mattress Firm says it's time to ripoff!

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