How Blue Light Affects Sleep

dark room with gnite text Photo by Tamar Waskey on Unsplash

Go ahead, reach out for that tablet before going to sleep. You’ll definitely enjoy your late night viewing but there’s a downside. You’ll be part of the 9 out of 10 Americans who everyday do that and risk suffering from insomnia and so many other sleep related disorders.  

If you haven’t already heard, there is a dark side to the blue light that your tablet emits. Even though it seems that your screen shows off white light most of the light it emits is on the blue wavelength with the range of 400 to 490. Long term studies as well as recent ones have identified it as one of the main causes of sleep disruption.

Let’s find out a little more about Blue Light and why it has a dark side.

Melatonin Suppression

All light waves may contribute in suppressing the secretion of melatonin. It’s just a matter of how much they do so. When we’re exposed to these light waves, our  Circadian Rhythm gets rehashed to a certain extent.  Red light has no effect on the circadian clock and yellow and orange light have little effect so using a red, yellow orange dim light won’t give you any troubles with sleeping. Any of these warm colored lights are actually used for night lights and side table lights, if you noticed in most hotels. Blue light gets a bad rap because it has the strongest impact on melatonin suppression thus leading to an evident disruption to our sleep cycle. 

Researchers in Harvard conducted an experiment to compare the effects of blue light and green light exposure. They allotted 6.5 hours exposure of comparable brightness for both wavelengths. In the end, the blue light suppresses melatonin two times more as the green light. It also moved back the circadian rhythm twice as much.  

Blue Light Is Everywhere

Blue light is almost impossible to avoid because it’s just everywhere. Here’s a list of common items that expose us to blue light.

  • Fluorescent lights
  • LED lights
  • Smartphones
  • Televisions
  • Computer screens
  • Tablets
  • E-readers
  • Video game consoles
  • Fluorescent light bulbs
  • LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs

Getting rid of blue light during night time could mean forsaking energy efficiency as most of our LED and curlicue compact fluorescent lightbulbs use blue light. If we were to go back to our old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs, it would mean higher energy consumption. 

Conflicting Research

Up until recently, everyone thought that blue light disrupted sleep. It had pushed an entire industry of anti blue light accessories and paraphernalia. However in December 2019 a research from a group in the University of Manchester published  a paper opposing that idea. had even made  a feature of it on their website. 

The emergence of new studies that challenge the status quo is something that may confuse the public. Although this may be both good and bad, changeability of facts in itself won’t help people adjust. 

Final Thoughts

Before you renounce the usefulness of blue light, you have to realize that it’s not really the culprit. Bottomline is, we are ultimately responsible for our own health. Blue light is all around us and that is a fact. Making sure that you protect yourself from what may harm you is best if you want to continue taking advantage of what it can offer us.