Most of us, myself included, are guilty of reaching for our phones just before bed. We tell ourselves it’s just one more scroll of Instagram or a quick race on Mario Kart Tour but before long, half an hour has passed and we’re still glued to our glass rectangle feeling more awake than we did before.
If this sounds all too familiar then this is definitely the post for you. Unless of course, you’re trying to get to sleep!
What is Blue Light?
As the name suggests, blue light is a colour on the visible light spectrum that can be seen by the naked human eye. It’s a specific type of light that has a short wavelength, meaning it emits a higher amount of energy.
To find blue light, we need not look further than the great outdoors. That’s because the largest source of blue light is sunlight, helping to increase our attention levels during the day so we’re ready to drift off once the night falls.
However, nature isn’t the only source of this high-energy visible (HEV) light. Digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, computer monitors, TVs, and even bulbs can emit artificial blue light. This means that whichever gadget you’re reading this from is undoubtedly blasting blue light into your retinas as we speak!
Whilst the light that emits from these sources doesn’t exactly appear blue to our eyes, we only need to look up on a clear day to see an example of blue light in action. Because of the shorter wavelength, blue light that comes into contact with air molecules is scattered across our atmosphere much more prominently than other colours. This is why the sky appears blue!
How Does Blue Light Affect Sleep?
Now we’ve established what blue light is, just how does it affect our sleep? Well, I’m glad you asked. To answer this, we have to delve into the science behind it all. Strap in, folks!
The Rhythm of the Night
Our bodies have biological clocks that help to regulate our circadian rhythm; a natural, roughly 24-hour internal process that helps control the sleep-wake cycle. To work effectively, it uses hints from your surroundings such as your location and exposure to light.
In fact, the main influence on circadian rhythm is daylight, so if you’re laying in bed in the dark, for example, it’s clear to these internal clocks that it’s time to sleep.
Exit, Light. Enter, Night
By now you may have figured out the connection. When it gets dark, the pineal gland in your brain releases what is referred to as the ‘Dracula of hormones’, otherwise known as melatonin. This hormone is responsible for your sleep cycle and helps inform your body that it’s time to snooze.
Blue light in particular, both natural and artificial, suppresses melatonin and inhibits its production, making you feel more awake and confusing your biological clocks.
To learn more about the biological clocks and how they work, check out our informative animated video! So, whilst blue wavelengths are useful during the day for boosting attention and reducing fatigue, they can be problematic at nighttime when we’re trying to relax and get some Z's.
Reducing the Effects of Blue Light
While it’s easier said than done, there are a few ways to prevent blue light from disrupting your sleep. Take a look below:
- Change your brightness If you’re using your phone at night, make sure you dim the screen as much as possible. This will ensure less blue light is emitted. It’s worth noting that some devices have a function in the settings where cool, blue light can be filtered out for a warm, amber tone. This ensures that your feelings of alertness are significantly reduced, ultimately allowing you to have less trouble falling asleep.
Take a look at the ‘Display & Brightness’ section in your settings to see if you can make any changes to your screen colour. On certain phones, this can be done by selecting the ‘Night Shift’ option.
- Cut back on screen time As the obsession with our phones continues to grow, more and more people are taking their devices to bed with them. Combat sleeplessness at night by making a conscious effort to stop looking at your phone from a certain time. For example, if you go to sleep by 10 pm you should stop using your phone by 7pm or 8 pm. This ensures that you won't be alert and should have no trouble sleeping.
Added tip: If you always forget what time to put your phone down, you can always set an alarm to give yourself a little reminder.
- Just do something else! Instead of looking at your phone, try something else in your wind-down before bed. Read a book, have a bath or write down your thoughts for the day! Any time spent away from your phone gives you the chance to become sleepy and start to drift off, eliminating that trouble falling asleep at night.
Extra Tips for Getting the Perfect Sleep
If you’re not having blue light problems but still struggling to sleep, we’ve included a few extra tips below to help you on your journey to a good night’s sleep. You can thank us later!
In a 2017 poll conducted by The Sleep Council, 26% of people found that ‘being uncomfortable in bed’ is the main factor in sleep problems.
Clearly then, one of the most important things you can do in improving your sleep is ensuring your surroundings are comfortable. Having a comfortable mattress, pillow and even bedding contributes a huge amount to how much trouble sleeping you have.
Your trouble sleeping is impacted greatly by the comfort of these major bedroom items:
- Mattress: As most people spend up to one-third of their life sleeping, it’s key to find a high-quality mattress that will keep you comfortable for the years to come. From pocket spring to memory foam, or quilted to tufted, everyone has different preferences, so it’s incredibly important to find the right fit for you!
- Pillows are vital in your journey to preventing sleep problems, as the right pillow provides the proper support needed for your spine. Plus, who doesn’t love the feeling of a super soft pillow?
- Bedding: Another important factor in your quality of sleep comes is the bedding you choose. Aim to select bedding that not only looks inviting, but is soft to the touch and will maintain a comfortable temperature throughout the night.
Another effective way to alleviate trouble sleeping would be to invest in some quality bedroom accessories, such as an eye mask. Our Panda Bamboo Eye Mask is lightweight, comfortable, and Oeko-Tex and Reach certified. This means that the product has been tested to ensure they are safe for those who have sensitive skin. Also made from sustainable materials, our eye mask is not only comfy, but eco-friendly too!
Stick to a pattern
This one’s a little tricky, but is super effective! You can change your Circadian rhythm, by keeping a regular sleep schedule. We know that it’s not always possible, but when you can, aim to wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day. Your body will eventually adjust to the new rhythm and, in time, you should have no trouble sleeping anymore!
Make your bedroom a technology-free space
Just like moderating the time spent on your phones before bed, ensuring that you have no electronic devices in your room can do wonders for those who have trouble falling asleep. By taking away any distractions before bed, you should be able to settle down and drift to sleep, without being stimulated by any external sources. Give it a try!
Is a Lack of Sleep Making You Blue?
If you’re still struggling to get a good night’s kip, even when you keep the blue light at bay, it may be time for a new mattress. Chances are that most of us have been spending a bit more time in bed lately, so your existing mattress could be feeling a little worse for wear. Luckily we have a wonderful range of mattresses so you can easily find one that’s certain to help you get your forty winks.
Do you prefer to use a blue light filter or do you simply avoid screens a few hours before bed? Be sure to let us know how you prevent blue light from disturbing your forty winks on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!
Did you enjoy this article by Happy Beds? We have plenty more interesting blog posts on the latest Happy Beds news, Interior Inspiration, Sleep Science and Lifestyle and Wellbeing.