Increased Exposure to Smart Devices Linked to Sleep Disturbances

Having trouble sleeping? It could be your phone or tablet that is causing your sleep disturbances. Many people spend hours in front of various smart devices, but experts say if you sit in front of your mobile phone, tablet or laptop late at night, you can often sleep badly later. So far, there’s only been two solutions: turn off these devices at least three hours before bed or wear specially designed computer glasses that filter the blue light.

It Is Like a Caffeine Effect

More and more people are reading in bed, watching television late at night, or finding reasons to use smart devices way after the sun sets. Unfortunately, the blue wavelengths of light that illuminate these devices disrupt our normal circadian rhythms. While we don’t perceive the difference between colors of light, evidently our bodies know the different wavelengths.

The amount of light we absorb generally influences our sleep-night rhythm. An example of this, experts point out, becomes clear when flying through different time zones. Our bodies may take a day or two, but then the jet lag is over, and the body adapts to the new sequence of day and night. Our rhythm must be calibrated to the new local time.

Blue light immediately signals us to stay awake, and as that light subsides, our body begins producing the hormone melatonin, which helps prepare the body for sleep. Brightness, on the other hand, inhibits the secretion of the hormone. Special photoreceptors in our retina are particularly sensitive to blue wavelengths. They produce the protein melanopsin and pass on the perception of light to our internal clock in the brain, telling us that it’s not time to fall asleep. The blue light is invisible to the human eye, and optometrists say it’s also very stressful for the retina.

Blue Filters to Block Wavelengths

Research groups studied healthy boys, between the ages of 15 to 17, to test glasses specially made with blue filters. One set of subjects that wore these blue-filtered glasses while using smart devices had melatonin found in their saliva. The other group that used smart devices without any special filtered glasses were tired, inattentive, and had no signs of melatonin in their saliva. Similar results have been found in clinical studies at the Research Center of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.

Other studies conclude, the further away from certain devices, like televisions, the less effects it has. It would certainly be simpler to switch off your electronic devices at around 7 pm, say experts, however that’s a bigger challenge for adolescents. There are always initiatives for a later start of school in higher grades, but most schools begin at 8am, and the real problem is the duration of blue light, and the resulting sleep disturbances. Experts say these lights are a health hazard, and by 2020, the use of LED lamps is expected to increase by as much as 70 percent, so in addition to regular breaks from looking at these screens, a blue light filter is vital to protect the eyes.