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 Zs.
Reducing the Effects of Blue Light
Whilst it’s easier said than done, the surefire way to prevent blue light from disrupting sleep is avoiding screens and other sources of blue light a couple of hours before bed. Instead, opt for a nice printed book or magazine.
Reading before bed is a fantastic way to unwind and tire your eye muscles, just make sure that your reading light uses warm coloured bulbs. I personally recommended bulbs that offer colour changing technology. They’re an excellent way to set the tone exactly how you want it when you want it.
If you just can’t commit to ditching your phone or tablet before bed, it may be worth using a blue light filter app. Built-in to most modern smartphones (iOS and Android), tablets and computers (Windows, macOS), these filters change the colour temperature of your screen as the day progresses. When night falls, you’ll notice that your device’s display will shift to an orange colour in an effort to reduce blue light exposure.
Sure, you may have to cope with your screen looking a bit like a Madagascan sunset, but your eyes will certainly thank you for it!
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.