How Blue Light Affects Your Sleep

Tara Youngblood Sep 05, 2022

How blue light affects your sleep

Do you use your smartphone, tablet, or computer at bedtime?

If you said yes, you are among the 95% of people who said they use some form of electronic device, whether a smartphone, tablet, or television, within an hour before sleeping.

Unfortunately, these devices can emit blue light, interrupting 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.

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 Unhealthy

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.

Blue Light and Sleep

Are you aware that people spend roughly seven hours daily on electronic devices? Now, that's a lot of time staring at blue light. Another study suggests nine out of ten people reach for their electronic devices before bed each night. It's recommended to stop using your electronic device before bedtime.

Devices that Emit Blue Light

  • Smartphones

  • Television

  • Tablets

  • E-readers

  • Fluorescent Bulbs

  • Computer Monitors

  • Gaming Systems

  • LED lights

How to Reduce Blue Light

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

1. 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.

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.

2. Set a Schedule

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.

3. Digital Device Detox

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

If you’re struggling to achieve deep sleep, reduce blue light hours before bedtime -- keep your bedroom tidy, dim the lights, and keep the bedroom cool and dark. Give some tips a try and see what works best for you.