Health experts, bloggers, and news media have been talking about how using electronic devices at night can hamper sleep. For example …
Chris Kresser – How artificial light is wrecking your sleep and what to do about it
healthylivingmagazine.us – Blue-Light Blocking Glasses May Help Sleep After Screen Time
This is because light, especially blue-wavelength light emitted from backlit electronic devices such as computers, laptops, iPads, and smartphone, suppresses our sleep hormone melatonin. Not only does melatonin helps with sleep, but it is an important anti-oxidant for the brain.
Evolutionary science suggests that the blue sky stimulates wakefulness by suppressing melatonin. Because if we were prehistoric humans in the wild, we wouldn’t want to be sleeping during the day. Otherwise, we be eaten by wild animals.
Now in our modern era, the blue-light from our electronic device in the evenings is suppressing this important melatonin hormone at night causing our sleep to suffer.
Is there any scientific studies backing this and how much does this affect the person? Sure there is scientific studies. Here is one on an issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America titled Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness
It says that …
“We found that the use of these devices before bedtime prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep, delays the circadian clock, suppresses levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, reduces the amount and delays the timing of REM sleep, and reduces alertness the following morning. … Overall, we found that the use of portable light-emitting devices immediately before bedtime has biological effects that may perpetuate sleep deficiency and disrupt circadian rhythms, both of which can have adverse impacts on performance, health, and safety”
Although the sample size of 12 is small. This is a cross-over study which means that the same participant did reading on an iPad in same room and timing for 5 consecutive evenings. And then the same participant did reading on printed page under the same conditions for 5 consecutive evenings. The iPad reading hampered sleep more than the reading on printed page.
The moral of the story is that if you must read at night, read from a printed page rather than from electronic devices.
If you must use electronic devices at night, there are a few ways to mitigate their harmful effects.
- Use an amber-filter over your monitor that blocks out blue light. I use these from LowBlueLights.com
- Use amber-colored goggles
- Use f.lux software (which I use as well) that changes the shade of your monitor depending on time of day.
- Strengthen your circadian rhythm by getting bright natural light exposure during the day and dimming the house lights at night — which I try to do.