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April 06, 2018
You know how it goes…you climb into bed and decide to spend just a few minutes browsing social media or watching a few YouTube videos on your smartphone. But before you know it, you’re wide awake.
Why is that?
The trouble may be the blue light of your screen, which creates more sleep problems than you might imagine.
For years, experts have been researching how computer use effects sleep quality. The blue light in the background of the computer screen has been shown to reduce the body’s natural production of melatonin, which is the sleep hormone that tells you when it’s time to hit the sack. Two hours of blue light exposure from your computer, tablet or smartphone, could cause your melatonin levels to drop as much as 22 percent.
Melatonin is necessary for more than just telling your body it’s time to close your eyes and get some decent shuteye each night. If your body fails to produce adequate melatonin, you may not get enough sleep. Being tired all the time tends to make you rely more on calorie-laden drinks and snacks to give you extra energy. It may discourage you from getting needed exercise. This one-two punch lands far too many people with obesity, a condition commonly associated with low melatonin levels and poor sleep habits. In fact, the suppression of melatonin caused by a screen’s blue light may even trigger diabetes or breast cancer in some people.
Sleep issues are a deeply subjective thing for a lot of people. Some adults can chug a triple espresso and still sleep soundly an hour later. Others may need to limit their consumption of anything that makes them feel too awake in the evening or even the afternoon. You might be able to get over an occasional blue light exposure, without causing chronic sleep problems. But if you are already noticing trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep or feeling well-rested, you should consider your evening screen time as a possible cause. A little blue light can create a lot of trouble for frequent insomniacs.
The simplest way to solve the problem is to avoid using screens with backlighting within two hours of going to bed. But of course, this can limit you from checking your email or completing that Netflix binge you have been waiting for. Certain apps and settings on your smartphone or tablet may allow you to change the color of your screen from blue to something more yellow, especially in the evening. You can also install programs on your computer to adjust the “temperature” of the lighting based on the time of day. These approaches may not be a cure-all, but they may allow you to do the last-minute technological things you need to complete before bed, without sabotaging your sleep efforts.
If you have to choose between a little nighttime screen time and better sleep, you ought to go for the latter. With these tips, you can better understand how blue light affects your sleep, and how you might fight back.