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Blue Light and Its Impact on Sleep: What You Need to Know

Tara Youngblood Sep 05, 2022

Blue light and sleep

We all spend a lot of time in front of screens, whether watching TV in the evening or using our cell phones leading up to bedtime. These screens emit large amounts of blue light, affecting your sleep.

Before we jump into the effects of blue lights, ask yourself the following question:

Do you use your smartphone, tablet, or computer at bedtime?
If you said yes, you are among the 70% of adults who use an electronic device in their bedroom or bed. [1] Additionally, that study found that 75% of children used some electronic device before bedtime. [2]

Unfortunately, these devices interrupt our natural sleep cycles. Decreasing the amount of exposure to blue light leading up to bedtime is a vital way to get your body naturally ready for sleep

Sleep Statistics: One out of five say they send or receive work-related emails before bed.

Let's find out how this works and how to reduce exposure to improve your sleep.

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What is Blue Light?

Blue light is a piece of the visible light spectrum. It can affect our sleep cycles, alertness, and hormone production.

The most familiar sources of blue light are found in our televisions, tablets, computers, and smartphones. These newfound sources of blue light in our daily lives are causing us to drown in a sea of blue and have arguably tipped the balance of our blue light exposure to genuine concern.

While blue light is not inherently unhealthy, it has various medical benefits—overexposure has been argued to knock our circadian rhythms off-kilter and lead to decreased levels of good health.

Does Blue Light Affect Sleep?

Short answer, yes. But blue light isn't bad. It can keep you awake as it reduces the body's release of melatonin, a hormone that makes us feel exhausted. While this may be helpful during the earlier parts of the day, it becomes unhelpful at night when we're ready for sleep.

Vulnerability to blue light misleads your mind into thinking that it's still daylight hours and causes you to be more alert, thus making it harder to fall asleep and get good rest at night.

Blue light, even from artificial sources such as your chosen form of digital devices, is not inherently bad. The light these devices emit can help promote proper melatonin production, increased mood, heightened alertness, and a healthy weight and adrenal function.

Overexposure to blue light can lead to health problems. The clear insight is how it affects our eyes while looking at blue light. But it also dramatically affects us while our eyes are closed and we’re trying to sleep. It’s also been linked to blurred vision, cataracts, dry eye, eye fatigue, and digital eyestrain.

Devices that Emit Blue Light

You may not be aware that many everyday devices emit blue light. These devices include smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktop computers, LED and fluorescent light bulbs, and televisions.

A recent study indicated that people spend roughly seven hours daily on electronic devices. [3] Now, that's a lot of time staring at blue light.

Taking breaks from screen time and reducing exposure to blue light before bedtime is important. There is some good news if you need help to avoid using your phone or tablet in bed.

Some companies understand the effects of blue light and now offer settings that allow you to reduce the amount of blue light emitted, such as the Night Shift feature on iPhones and iPads or the Blue Light Filter on Android devices.

Below are common devices that emit blue light.

  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Laptops
  • Desktop Computers
  • LED and Fluorescent Light Bulbs
  • Television
  • Gaming Devices
  • E-readers
  • Digital Clocks
  • Smart Watches and Fitness Trackers

How to Reduce Blue Light

The most effective strategy to reduce blue light exposure is simply turning off the devices one hour before bedtime. But, any of the below combinations of these tips will help you find your sleep switch and start sleeping great immediately.

Blue Light Filters

Tech companies know all about the harmful effects of blue light on health and are doing their part to stay ahead of the curve and ensure you augment how you spend your time on their devices, not the amount of time.

If you can’t limit the time you spend on your device, limit the amount of blue light your device spends on you.

Blue Light Glasses

Wearing blue light-blocking glasses can help. They are typically amber or brown-tinted lenses.

iPhone and PC’s

There are functions on most Apple products, PCs, and Smartphones that enable you to filter the amount of blue light you are exposed to. It is called Night Shift on Apple products and Night Light on PCs. Both filters are amazing augmentations if you have to use your technology at night.

Cut Back on Screen Time

Setting a schedule is important. I know this isn’t always the easiest in the age of information, but sometimes we need to schedule time apart. Just as we set parameters in any other arena of our lives to maximize efficiency, so should we set a schedule on the amount of time we spend on our electronic devices. Set an alarm that reminds you that it’s time to turn off your devices. This can be done 2-3 hours before bedtime.

Tip: Set an alarm 1 hour before bed to remind you to stop using your devices.

Digital Device Detox

Just say no. Many have suggested that your bedroom should be a space free of digital interaction. Instead of interacting with your device, I propose that you let your device interact with you. By taking advantage of the latest sleep-tracking apps and devices, you can benefit from healthy technology while maintaining your natural circadian rhythms.

White noise sleeping app

I want to end with one bonus suggestion.

Trade out your time with blue light by literally giving yourself the red light. Replace your bedroom lamps with bright light bulbs with warmer orange or red lights, or turn the lights off altogether and enjoy an old-fashioned evening by candlelight. This will help you relax and get a great night’s sleep!

Final Thoughts

Now we fully understand how the blue light emitted by electronic devices, LED and fluorescent light bulbs, and even some natural sources can negatively impact your sleep.

Exposure to blue light at night can suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, and disrupt your body's natural sleep-wake cycle.

However, using some helpful steps above can reduce blue light exposure before bedtime to improve your sleep quality.

It's time to take charge, prioritize your sleep health, try some tips, and see what works best for you.


[1] Bhat, S., Pinto-Zipp, G., Upadhyay, H., & Polos, P. G. (2018). “To sleep, perchance to tweet”: in-bed electronic social media use and its associations with insomnia, daytime sleepiness, mood, and sleep duration in adults. Sleep Health, 4(2), 166–173. View Study

[2] LeBourgeois, M. K., Hale, L., Chang, A. M., Akacem, L. D., Montgomery-Downs, H. E., & Buxton, O. M. (2017). Digital Media and Sleep in Childhood and Adolescence. Pediatrics, 140(Suppl 2), S92–S96. View Study

[3] Howarth, J. (2022, September 21). Alarming Average Screen Time Statistics (2022). Exploding Topics. View Resource