Center for Workforce Health

Improving the Health and Productivity of Today's Workforce

Why Setting Aside Your Smartphone at Night Can Improve Your Health

 

With advancements in technology, there is the proliferation of electronic screens for every aspect of our lives. Whether we’re looking at a smartphone, a computer, a television, or a reading tablet, most people’s screen time has increased dramatically over the years. We may even find ourselves staring at these devices right before bed. Unbeknownst to most people, electronic screens, along with fluorescent and LED light bulbs, emit blue light which can affect our health.  

Blue light can be beneficial by boosting alertness, elevating mood, and assisting in memory and cognitive function. However, blue light at night can disrupt our sleep cycle. Specifically, our circadian clock is synchronized with our visual perception of light and dark transitions. Melatonin, a night-signaling hormone, is low during the day and high during the night. When we expose ourselves to blue or artificial light at night, coincidentally our melatonin is suppressed, thus tricking our body into thinking it is still daytime. It takes longer for us to fall asleep and our REM sleep is reduced, resulting in less quality sleep. Further, recent research suggests that exposure to artificial light at night can increase the risk of certain types of cancers and chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

Before you go running to toss out your electronic devices, there are strategies you can adopt to help you live healthfully while keeping your devices by your side. Check out the following tips we suggest for reducing blue light exposure at night:

Tip 1: Electronic Curfew

Keeping up to date with your friends and family on social media may be something you enjoy right before bed. However, if possible,  try to set an electronic curfew 1-2 hours before sleep.  An electronic curfew is a time you designate to cut off electronic device usage. For example, if you normally go to bed at 10pm, try to make a rule of setting aside electronics (phones and TV) starting at 8 or 9 pm to reduce your exposure to blue light right before bed. This can be a part of your healthful sleep routine!

Tip 2: Blue Light Phone Filters

Setting an electronic curfew may be out of the question due to work and life responsibilities. That is OK. There are phone filter apps and phone covers that can be used to reduce your exposure to blue light. Try one and see if it works for you.

Tip 3: Opt for a Hardcopy Book Instead of a Tablet 

Sometimes as part of their nighttime routine, people will read a book before bed to relax. Reading can be a great way to calm you before sleep and help you unwind. However, if you are reading from a blue light emitting device, your attempt to unwind may be negated by blue light exposure. Try to opt for a paperback copy of your favorite book or magazine instead of reading it from a tablet.

Tip 4: Blue Light Blocking Glasses

Fluorescent and LED light bulbs also emit blue light wavelengths, thus, even if you put down your electronic device, you still may be absorbing blue light before bed. The good news is there are blue light blocking glasses you can wear around your house prior to bedtime.

Tip 5: Switch Up Bedroom Lighting

It may not be an option to switch all the light bulbs in your home, but the bedroom is a great place to start. It can be helpful  to substitute out these LED lights for incandescent light bulbs that produce less blue light. This will provide you with a calming bedroom environment that promotes healthful sleep!