What do you do before going to bed on your weekday evenings? If you are like one of our friends who is the life of the party nearly every evening, we would like you to write in and let us know where you get the energy from (unless it is, indeed a superpower). If you are a regular working professional, chances are that you probably spend a lot of time looking up at electronic screens of various shapes and sizes.
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Addicted to Your Screen?
It could be for a number of reasons — you could be scrambling to finish that presentation on your computer/laptop that your boss wanted immediately (and she used words such as “post-haste”), or you could be competing against millions of users worldwide on the latest fad PUBG, or it could be just tagging close friends on plain old Facebook. The point is, that just like the rest of the world, we don’t realize how much time we spend in front of a screen at any given time of the day.
It is no wonder then, that all this activity would take a toll on your sleep. As it has been proven time and again, staring at screens, especially during nighttime disrupts the circadian cycle. This is mainly because the blue light from our screens mimics daylight, suppressing the release of a hormone known as melatonin, which is key to regulate the wake-sleep cycle. But most of us cannot resist the lure of the newest current obsession; be it the latest coloring book to hit the App Store, or an unfinished book.
It has been estimated that almost 95% of Americans use tablets, laptops or smartphones before hitting the sack. These devices are primarily composed of blue light.
Last year, two national surveys, in their findings concluded that most adolescents sleep less than 7 hours every night. There have been numerous studies, one in 2009 in which 20 volunteers were given amber-tinted glasses to wear 3 hours prior to going to bed (these glasses have been proven to prevent the suppression of melatonin). After a two-week observation, it was found that the group reacted positively to the little experiment and reported better sleep quality and an improvement in mood. This was compared with a group that wore yellow-tinted glasses (which blocks ultraviolet light).
More recently, in 2017, another study involved 13 healthy males from Basel, Switzerland, in which they were asked to wear amber-tinted glasses prior to going to bed. They were not discouraged to use their screens before going to bed. The study concluded that the sleep quality was indeed improved and that the test subjects felt sleepier.
Both these studies held years apart, concluded that wearing blue-blocking glasses successfully did two things — decreased alertness and increased the production of melatonin, which in turn, encouraged healthy sleep. The sleeping glasses, so to say, worked.
What Is This Blue Light?
Consider this, light emitting diodes, popularly known as LEDs illuminate your smartphones and tablets, but at the same time, also emit blue light. The other sources of this light include devices such as televisions which often come equipped with LEDs (but these could have less effect on your sleep as opposed to the handheld devices because they are viewed from a distance).
As we have discussed in some previous articles, all our behavioral, mental and physical changes in our bodies are run by something called the circadian rhythms (a 24-hour cycle), which are also affected by external factors. And one of these external factors, as you guessed right, is light.
The blue light has high energy and a short wavelength. It is because of this energy that it is used in tablets, laptops, smartphones and of course, fluorescent lighting. As much as the regular person enjoys watching television or a bout of gaming on their smartphones, they do not realize that it could be that thing that keeps them awake at night. As we mentioned earlier, it retards the production of melatonin making it a bit harder to fall asleep at night.
Our eyes are more sensitive to this blue-toned light, and hence, it influences the sleep cycle more than other lights. Keeping that in mind, many manufacturers, such as Philips, are leaning towards warm white lights rather than blue to use at night. They manufacture something called the “Hue”, which are white ambiance bulbs, which can be flicked to a warm light to a cool light by using an app and can even be voice controlled.
What’s the Deal with Warm Lighting Then?
As human beings, warm lighting indicates the end of the day for most of us and signifies evenings. It also helps us wind down and get ready for sleep. Unlike the white light, which signifies daylight and makes us more alert to enable us to perform tasks. The same light, as we discussed above, can mess with your circadian rhythms, affect your sleep and your inner clock.
Simply put, we associate white light with a cooler temperature, and red/orange light with, well, warmer light. On the other hand, warm sunlight in the morning filtering through your shades or blinds can help you come into a slow wakefulness. We use incandescent light during the evenings to produce that ambient lighting; some of us who have access to fireplaces (during winters) do that. So now you understand that the storytelling sessions held near fireplaces are not used only for the romantic effect, they serve a purpose.
But be wary, filling your room with too much warm light can act as a sedative and might make it harder for you to concentrate. That is one of the reasons that you will never find warm lighting in any offices!
So Will Amber Glasses Really Help?
As we have been reading, anything that reduces blue light will help, so yes, wearing amber glasses a few hours before you go to bed might help.
Be aware that all glasses are not created equal, and not all products available on the market have been tested to achieve the desired results. You will find literally thousands of such products (read: amber glasses) on online markets, but there is no guarantee that they will aid you in the perfect sleep.
It is no wonder that lately, almost all new smartphones and tablet devices have started offering the option of “reading mode”, which sort of diffuses the white light to a more, yellowish tinge that puts noticeably less strain on your eyes. Similarly, developers have come up with products that will change the blue light emitted from your device, depending upon the time of the day for your computers and phones.
Benefits of Wearing Amber Colored Glasses
Amber or copper colored glasses have been used regularly in low-light conditions because they make objects appear sharper and brighter. More importantly, they also block the blue light which is known to scatter easier and hence, making it difficult to focus and enhance your depth perception and contrast, making them perfect for hazy and foggy conditions. You may have also seen many sportspersons donning these glasses indoors and outdoors, such as cyclists and swimmers.
While everyone has their own preference over the shade of amber; it could be copper, yellow or bronze, there are some other potential applications of wearing these glasses:
We already read about how blocking the blue light does not suppress the production of melatonin, and hence, sleep comes faster. Wearing amber glasses prior to going to bed helps a person fall asleep much easier, especially if the person has a history of sleep disorders.
A leading cause of blindness in the elderly, macular degeneration could occur because of excessive exposure to blue light from sunlight. Wearing amber colored sunglasses provide protection from the UV rays, enhances visibility and clarity, reduces the harsh glare and improves contrast.
Studies have shown that wearing glasses with shades of amber may help uplift the mood for people who are suffering from some forms of bipolar disorder.
As we are now aware, amber colored glasses certainly help you sleep better, but do not think of them as a miraculous cure. Think of them as glasses that help you sleep and as an aid to improve your sleep quality. Besides, they are not expensive so it won’t hurt to give them a try. But, if you are suffering from long-term disorders, it is always advisable to consult a sleep specialist or a doctor. Otherwise, you may want to stop using blue light devices completely a few hours before you sleep. If you can, that is.