YOU KNOW HOW it goes. You climb into bed and decide to spend a few extra minutes browsing social media or watching a couple of YouTube videos on your smartphone before you nod off. But before you know it, you are wide awake and you have no idea why.
The trouble may be the blue light of your screen, which creates more sleep problems than you might imagine.
How Does Computer Use Affect Sleep?
Experts have been researching the effects of computer use on sleep quality for many years. The blue light in the background of the computer screen has been shown to reduce the body’s natural production of melatonin, the sleep hormone that tells you when it’s time to hit the sack. It could be a useful tool when you really need to stay awake, but most adults do not get enough sleep as it is. For two hours of exposure through your computer, tablet or smartphone, your melatonin levels could drop as much as 22 percent.
Does Lower Melatonin Cause Other Health Concerns?
Melatonin is necessary for more than just your ability to close your eyes and get some decent shuteye each night. If you fail to produce adequate melatonin in your body, 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.
Is Everyone Affected by Blue Light Sleep Problems?
Of course, sleep issues are a deeply subjective thing for a lot of people. Some adults can chug a triple espresso and still be sleeping soundly an hour later. Others may need to limit consumption of anything that makes them feel too awake in the evening or even the afternoon. You might be able to get over occasional blue light exposure, without causing chronic sleep problems. However, 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.
How Can I Avoid Blue Light Effects at Night?
The simplest way to solve the problem is to avoid using screens with backlighting within about two hours of going to bed. However, 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 could 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.