When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, modern computer and smartphone screens are the worst invention since the electric light. But, how can we avoid them without throwing our technology away and living like it’s the mid-1980s?
The screens you look at when working or playing on your laptop, desktop, tablet computer or smartphone all emit blue light. This blue-toned light tells your body to suppress melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your circadian rhythms by telling your body that it’s time to go to sleep. The problem comes when you decide to check your email or watch one more episode of a TV show at 11:00 p.m. Despite the fact that it’s time for bed (in some parts of the year, 11:00 p.m. literally is the middle of the night) your body gets confused because it’s registering the blue light it’s used to seeing first thing in the morning.
The problem is that these screens and their artificial blue light are here to stay, and few of us are likely to throw them away voluntarily. So, here are some tips to help you live with them and hopefully still get a good night’s sleep:
Put the devices away at night. The simplest and most effective way the keep your devices and television from disturbing your body clock is to put them away a couple of hours before bed. Instead, read a book (a real one — not an e-book), listen to the radio, write in a journal or talk with your family. When reading, use an old style incandescent bulb if you can find one (the newer compact florescent bulbs emit a lot of blue light) or purchase a red or orange reading lamp that doesn’t emit blue light.
We realize that many people won’t do this, so here are other less effective solutions…
Block the blue light with goggles or glasses. You may feel a little silly wearing them while watching TV or checking your email, but isn’t a little silliness worthwhile if it helps you get a better night sleep? These goggles, which can be purchased in a number of places including Amazon.com, filter out the blue light that causes problems. Blogger Kris Gunnars wrote about his experience with them:
I’ve set a reminder on my phone to always put them on at 8:30 pm. If I’m not home at that time, then I just put them on as soon as I get home in the evening.
After having them on for about 1-2 hours, I start feeling very relaxed and naturally tired.
Since I started using them, I’ve been falling asleep much faster and waking up refreshed in the morning. My mood has improved significantly and I’m finding it a lot easier to think and write.
Turn down the blue light on your devices. This isn’t easy to do, but there’s software that can help. For your computer, we’ve talked before about a program called f.lux. The software tunes your LED display, shifting it to emit light frequencies that are appropriate for the time of day. There are also apps for your smartphone and tablet that perform similar tasks.
Stop checking your phone in the middle of the night. If you do nothing else, avoid picking up your phone if you wake up at 2 a.m. You don’t need to see what’s happening on Twitter or Facebook. It will wait a few hours more.
We didn’t say it would be easy, but there ARE things you can do, and cutting down the amount of blue light that contaminates your body clock may be the recipe you need for a good night’s sleep.