Our sleep is suffering big time, and the likely culprit is our most cherished companion in the modern age – our phones. It might be you’re reading this article in bed right now, reading articles as to procrastinate sleeping.
For most of human history, the waking hours of humans were generally determined by when the sun rose and set. Without electricity or reliable consistent (and less flammable) lighting, it was wisest to rise and sleep with the sun. This relates to what is called our circadian rhythm.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, your circadian rhythm is “24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.” Basically, when and why you feel awake or sleepy is due to your circadian rhythm trying to ensure you get adequate rest. This is why darkness generally makes people sleepy and bright lights (i.e. the sun) make you feel more alert.
The trouble is, most of us don’t put the lights out with the setting of the sun (and many of us work nights or at least well past sunset ). On top of that, the majority of us are guilty of spending our evenings in bed with a bright blue screen just a foot from our faces scrolling through facebook or down the abyss of internet listicles.
The fact that the light on our phones tends to be blue is another important factor – blue is the color of daylight, the color of the sun. Morning and evening are warmer hues of yellow and orange. The result of that bright blue light is disruptive sleep, as your body’s natural circadian rhythm fights with the 15 square inches of daylight right before your nose. Of course, the extra time that you’re scrolling through your feed and not sleeping doesn’t help, either.
So what should you do about it? Harvard Health has some suggestions:
Avoid LED Blue Light Exposure At Night
Though our bright LED bulbs are more energy efficient, they overwhelmingly give off blue light. At night time, use lights that are red or at leastwarmer colors. Consider leaving the bright blue LEDs as your ceiling lights and using tungsten lights (you can check on the light bulb box) for lamps so you don’t accidentally blast yourself with blue light when you get up in the middle of the night for water.
Protect Yourself From Blue Light At Night
There are many ways to avoid blue light in the evenings. The best suggestion (though perhaps the hardest habit to break) is to avoid screens for at least a few hours before you go to bed.
If this isn’t possible (you’re a night owl, work late, or other reasons), consider using an app on your phone that will shift the color temperature of the screen light. Conversely, you can get UV-blocking glasses that do the same thing (this can also be helpful if you work at a computer all day).