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Are Electronics Interfering With Your Sleep?

Late at night... staring at the screen...
Late at night... staring at the screen...

Over the years researchers have analyzed rest patterns and discovered that people are sleeping over an hour less per night than they were 100 years ago. That trend seems to be increasing and the side effects can be devastating. People who don't sleep at least 8 hours a night are more likely to overeat and gain weight, suffer from hypertension and experience depression.

There are several things that contribute to the problem, but one of the lesser known ones is all those computer screens we're surrounded by. Smart phones, tablets and even smart watches are constantly on, trying to get your attention. The more time you spend on them, the more ads they feed you and the more money they make. It's in their best interest to keep you engaged.

Here's where it gets a little strange. When you look at most electronic devices, they use blue light for their screens. That light wakes you up and keeps you more alert. This is how it works. (This next part is a little technical, so stay with me.)

Sunlight is our primary source of light. It contains a wide range of colors including red, orange, yellow, green and blue. All those colors combine to produce the “white light” or sunlight we experience every day. But not all light is equal.

Rays at the upper end of the spectrum, the reds, oranges and yellows have long wavelengths. The longer the wavelength, the less energy they contain. That means red and yellow rays have relatively little energy. Rays at the lower end of the spectrum, the greens and blues have short wavelengths. They have much more energy.

Light Spectrum

When you look at a typical computer screen, it's using a lot of blue wavelength light. All that high energy blue light makes our body suppress the release of melatonin in the brain. When levels of melatonin are reduced, it keeps us awake.

During the day that's perfect because it improves mood, increases attention and can even speed up reaction time. Blue light stimulates and wakes you up. However, looking at that same screen during the night, when you should be winding down and getting ready to sleep, can be very disruptive.

Light that's designed to wake you up, coupled with apps and programs engineered to keep you online, make us stay up longer than we should. Over time losing all that sleep can seriously harm our health. Here's how you can fight back.

First, stop using any electronic device with a screen at least two hours before bedtime. Give your body a little time to unwind and relax.

Second, change the settings on your devices.

Android Phones

On an Android phone do this. Launch settings. Then go into Display. You will see something called "blue light filter." Tap it to turn it on. Right away you should see the tint of the screen color change. It'll show less blue and more red/orange light. You can change it permanently, or choose the option to have it switch on just in the evening.

iphones

On an Iphone do this. Launch settings. Then go into Display and Brightness. Click on Night Shift and either manually enable it or schedule it to go on automatically every eveing.

Windows 10

On Windows 10 computers you'll find the options under Settings, then System, Display and click on Night Light Settings.

Macintosh

On Macintosh computers go to System Preferences, then Display and click on Night Shift to change the settings.

By changing your electronic devices to show less blue light, and arranging to shut them down a couple hours before you plan on sleeping, you should find you're getting longer and more restful sleep.

Here's something you don't have to worry about. There are several companies that claim blue light can cause headaches and migraines, macular degeneration and damage to the retina. We have not been able to find a single clinical study that shows any of those claims are true. In fact, companies have been fined in several countries like the United Kingdom for false or misleading ads like that. If that changes, we'll let you know.

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6/15/2019