The picture-perfect nighttime routine never carves out time for screen time before bed. In fact, most people describing their “perfect nighttime routine” will say they put their phones away anywhere from 2-3 hours before they’re heading to bed! What’s the reason for this?
The issue with blue light
Blue light, the kind of light being emitted from phones and computer devices, is known for inducing alertness. Everyone has a natural circadian rhythm that’s job is to secrete sleep hormones in our body, and this kind of light disrupts this cycle, leaving you with a decrease in the ability to fall asleep.
Psychology Today suggests that “according to the market research group Nielsen, adults spend over 11 hours per day interacting with media”. Now, this may not be an issue during the light hours of the day because an increase in alertness isn’t a naturally bad thing. It’s the screen time before bed that begins to show poorer sleep schedules and decreased overall health.
Any light can suppress melatonin secretion, but blue light is the most powerful in its effects. In a study by Harvard researchers, it was found that blue light suppressed melatonin for almost twice as long as green light. It ended up shifting circadian rhythms by twice as much as the other light.
What’s at stake
Blue light isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Other than the issue of digital eye strain, blue light itself does not cause too many long-term health risks on its own. There is area for concern in the use of digital devices at night when you are in the hours leading up to sleep.
Sleeping less is linked to a variety of issues like poor academic performance, an increase in risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or even obesity. Less sleep leads to increased risk for depression as well. The Vision Council announced that close to 80% of American adults report using digital devices within the hour before they go to sleep. These statistics prove that the majority of American adults are at higher risk for developing long-term health issues that could be potentially life-threatening
Read our article New Studies Share How Blue Light Speeds Up Blindness to see what other effects blue light can have on consumers of digital content.
Although these allegations are not proven to be completely true, there have been many case studies conducted in order to investigate the effects of blue light on the eye and human health. A Harvard study provides information on the potential connection between blue light and diabetes, along with obesity.
Ten people were placed on a schedule that gradually shifted their circadian rhythms. The results showed an increase in blood sugar which put them into a prediabetic state. This is cause for concern, along with the fact that their levels of leptin decreased at the same time. Leptin is a hormone that leaves you feeling full after a meal. This could potentially leave room for overeating and thus the increased chance for obesity.
Taking steps in the right direction
The issue of blue light exposure has moved to the forefront of optical discourse. Fortunately, tactics to prevent health risks have been emerging just as the topic continues to surface. Laptops and phones have introduced new features that shift the blueness of light according to the time of day. The use of red lights have been discovered to have less power over your circadian rhythms, and studies have even shown that if you limit screen use and bright light 2-3 hours before bed, you will continue a healthy sleep cycle.
Sometimes it is impossible to get away from electronics at night. Maybe you are a night owl and have some work to catch up on, or maybe you work the night shift in a well-lit room! Blue-blocking glasses have been developed to filter out the blue and green wavelengths that appear at night. In addition to wearing special glasses, another recommendation to boost sleep is to expose yourself to bright light during the day when you need to be alert. This will boost your ability to sleep at night.
It’s impossible to avoid blue light in our everyday lives, whether it’s tv, computer screens, or scrolling on our phones. Because consuming digital content on our devices is just a part of life now, it is important to take the steps necessary to keep our eyes and our bodies healthy. Contact us to find out more about eyewear options to offer your patients when it comes to protection from blue light and visit our products page to see what types of specialty lenses we offer at Allentown Optical.