Trouble sleeping? It could be your phone…

Eyes and Blue Light

You set your alarm clock for 6:00am every morning, but inevitably end up pressing the sleep button once, twice, three times. Does this sound familiar? The reason for your lack of energy is either because you aren’t getting sleep or the quality of sleep you’re getting isn’t great.

Poor sleep quality is often attributed to your diet, stress or lack of exercise. However, there could be another culprit… “blue lights”. Blue light is emitted from two primary sources, energy efficient light bulbs and our electronic devices, such as your television, your smart phone and your computer. While studies are still in the works as to the long term effects of blue lights, research has already shown a connection between this light and its effect on our visual focusing and sleep patterns.

Eyes and Blue Light
In order to create a clear image, light has to focus on the retina. However, blue light focuses in front of the retina rather than on it. This leads to a higher degree of eye fatigue and fluctuating vision when looking at blue light for an extended period of time. What’s happening is the part of your brain that controls your eye’s focus is trying desperately to move the blue light back onto the retina in order to create a clearer image. What your brain doesn’t know is that it’s effort is hopeless.

But why does this affect your sleep? Shouldn’t this make you even more tired?

Well, yes and no. The problem is while all light suppresses melatonin, blue light does so to a greater degree. Suppression of melatonin is helpful during the day because it increases alertness and mood, however, at night it disrupts your ability to fall asleep and have a good quality of sleep. That means, not only are your eyes fatigued, but you’re also too alert to fall asleep, leading to an all around fatigue and pressing the sleep button on your alarm too many times.

Now, it would be a ridiculous suggestion to say everyone should stop exposing themselves to blue light. These days that is virtually impossible. Nonetheless, there are a few things you could do to help diminish the effects:

  1. Energy efficient light bulbs are great for our environment, but consider dimming them after dinner to make sure they don’t affect your sleep patterns.
  2. Instead of going to bed with your phone or iPad, put them both away after 7:00pm and curl up with a paperback instead.
  3. If you’re a glasses wearer and spend most of your day in front of the computer, consider adding an anti-reflective lens treatment to your lenses. These lenses reflect the harmful blue light away from the eyes.

So this year at your annual comprehensive eye exam, make sure to ask about protecting your eyes from blue lights. Your body will thank you.


Photo credit: William Hook / Foter / CC BY-SA