If you reach for a computer or smartphone after getting into bed, you are not alone.
In fact, the 2011 National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll found that 90 percent of Americans report using an electronic device in their bedroom within an hour of trying to fall asleep.
Screens on these devices can emit blue light that interferes with our natural sleep cycles because it inhibits the production of melatonin.
Our eyes interpret colors of light based on the amount of energy they contain. Rainbows show us the entire spectrum of visible light. Blue light is a portion of the visible light spectrum that can have unique effects on alertness, hormone production, and sleep cycles. This wavelength of light is emitted by LED and fluorescent lights, as well as many electronic devices.
This light doesn’t necessarily appear blue; it’s part of any bright white light, says Charles Czeisler, M.D., chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“Our light exposure between when the sun sets and the sun rises is probably the primary driver of sleep deficiency in our society,” says Czeisler. While that includes artificial light of all kinds, light from electronic devices that emit that blue light—such as the LED displays in smartphones, tablets, and modern computer and television screens—is particularly problematic for sleep, he says.
With the advent of artificial light and electronics, people are being exposed to increasing amounts of light before bedtime. Decreasing exposure to light in the evening - and blue light, in particular - is an important way to help your body naturally prepare for sleep.
That’s one reason there’s been a growing interest in blue light glasses that can block the blue parts of the light spectrum that experts say are especially bad for sleep.
The brain needs time to transition from waking to sleep and staying engaged in a TV show doesn’t allow that. It’s better to watch an episode or two and then allow time for relaxing activities, such as yoga, meditation or reading, before trying to go to sleep.
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