A lot has been said about short wave blue light emitted from phones that could be straining your eyes and preventing sleep. In today’s economy, it is nearly impossible to be away from one’s phone. But if the phone and the screen are taking away one’s ability to sleep well, how can you make changes? It’s time to start at the basics.
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How Does Blue Light Affect Your Sleep?
Your body is used to a certain circadian rhythm which goes along with the natural progression of the day. If you live in a part of the world where there is a clear concept of light in the day and dark in the night (meaning, you do not inhabit one of the poles), your body and eyes are accustomed to it being dark at night. After sunset, when it is closer to your bedtime, your brain sees the lack of sunlight outside as a sign to release melatonin, a hormone that relaxes your muscles and lulls you into a sleep. But when the eye is constantly exposed to an artificial source of light, like the short wave blue light coming out of your screen, the photoreceptor cells in the eye absorb that light and prevent the sleep hormone from being released.
This is the reason why even if you were feeling really sleepy before you hit the bed, the minute you turn on your phone to watch a video or to scroll through Facebook, you may find your desire to sleep, evaporate.
What Are Blue Light Filtering Apps?
Often, you cannot avoid looking at the screen even when you are settling into bed. Perhaps, there’s an urgent email that needs your attention or this is the only time you have had in the whole day to read an important report or an interesting article. So while some pre-bed screen time may have become unavoidable in this day and age, you can reduce the impact of the blue light emitting from the screen. This is where blue light filtering apps come in. Most iPhones have a pre-built programme called the Night Shift app, which you can activate when you are using your phone at night.
Some other popular blue light filtering apps include Night Mode (for Android), F.lux, Iris and Twilight. Most of these apps are smart and interactive enough to take into account when you sleep, how long you sleep on average and when you wake up. In the window of your sleep, if you end up using your phone laptop, etc., the screen will turn into a soft, orange tint, protecting you from the blue light.
Do They Help?
The main question, however, is does blue light filter work? Blue light filtering apps certainly help to a large extent. They cut down the harshness of the blue light when you are reading at night. But there are several limitations too. In fact, these filtering apps alone can even cause more strain to your eyes due to discoloration and distortion of what is on your screen. The quality of the pictures you are looking at on the screen is affected with by apps and sometimes they can do more harm than good.
Besides, the LED light that provides the backlight to your screen is comprised of both blue and white light. The filtering apps do not provide a holistic protection, in that sense.
If you want to make the best use of such apps, it would perhaps be better if you paired it along with filtering glasses. These are glasses specially made to protect your eyes from the computer glare. They come in smart styles and look like any other pair of spectacles, the difference is that they have zero power and are made especially to filter out the harmful blue light. You can wear it at any time of the day. Filtering glasses also do not distort color or form on your screen, but simply provide a buffer between you and the screen so your eyes experience less strain.
Other Things to Avoid before Bed
One thing to remember is that your computer or phone screen may not be the only thing leading to light exposure. There are several other sources of artificial light that could be straining your eyes. There are indoor lights, street lights and even car headlights that can lead to disrupted sleep in the long run.
Several commercial areas in city centers have started using incandescent, neon lights, modeled on Times Square, to attract patronage. These lights are one of the leading causes of excessive exposure to lights. So recognize other sources of light too and do not rely on the light filtering app on your phone alone to do the job. Some other things to avoid in the latter half of the day, in order to get a peaceful night of sleep is:
This is a no-brainer, but caffeine prohibits sleep. And your boy takes at least a couple of hours to process caffeine, so if you think you can drink coffee at 6 pm and still go to sleep peacefully at 10:30 pm, that may not always be possible. Even decaffeinated coffee has trace amounts of caffeine – enough to keep you awake at night. Avoiding caffeine also means you need to avoid chocolate before bed.
Late Night Meals
Late night meals will prohibit your sleep for a variety of reasons. For starters, your body will not be able to digest the food if you lie down immediately after dinner. This could lead to indigestion and acid reflux, both too uncomfortable to allow you to sleep well enough. A heavy meal too late in the night could also increase your body temperature as the body goes into overdrive, trying to break down the food, making it too hot to sleep well.
You may think a few glasses of alcohol will relax your muscles and lull you into sleep more easily. But studies show that alcohol may put you into a deep sleep in the earlier part of the night, leading to wakefulness in the later part of the night when you generally tend to have the most restorative sleep. Since alcohol will make your heart rate faster, there is a good chance you will wake up repeatedly at night, even if you manage to sleep with more ease.
Have you ever been so tired that you cannot fall asleep? While some exercise before sleeping is advised and can even help you sleep better if you exercise too intensely that may be counterproductive too. If sleep evades you after a 9 pm high-intensity gym session, try skipping a few nights or try to get an earlier session to see if you sleep better.
There are many things that could be causing your disrupted sleep, but one of the main reasons certainly remains the screen. Even if you use a light filtering app, your phone will invariably take you further away from sleep. So instead of relying on an app to reduce blue light, try to keep your phone away before bed, if possible. There may be work pressure and often your phone may seem indispensable. But only when you make the first effort will you be able to make it a lifestyle.