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Want to Sleep Better? Limiting Your Blue Light Exposure Could Help

Blue light can be harmful, so we have some tips to lower your exposure and help improve your sleep.

Jul 17, 2019

Ever hear the advice, “make sure to put your phone away a half hour before bed”? (And ever wonder why someone is trying to rip your precious out from under your scrolling fingers?) Turns out, there’s actually substance to the suggestion.

Most common technology—our phones, computers, and even our lightbulbs—emit unnaturally high levels of blue light. Blue light isn’t inherently bad: At its best, it has the ability to boost attention, reaction times, and mood, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Sunlight contains blue wavelengths, which are naturally higher strength in the morning and gradually lower throughout the day. The ebb and flow affect our circadian rhythms and metabolism, programming us to wake up with the sun and fall asleep in its absence. It’s when that natural cycle is interrupted with artificial light that health risks start to crop up.

Exposure to such high levels of blue light throughout the entire day, and especially at night, can cause us not only to get headaches and dry eye, but also cause us to lose out on quality sleep. According to market-research group Nielsen, Americans spend more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening to or interacting with media; nearly half of every day. Our bodies react to our phones and computer screens similarly to how they would the rising sun: the exposure to blue light delays the release of melatonin—a sleep-inducing hormone—and resets our internal clock. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to limit your exposure and avoid escalating health complications linked with decreased melatonin levels, like increased risk for depression, diabetes, and cardiovascular issues.

Image via Touch of Modern | ALIGN:LEFT

1. Turn On "Nightshift" on your iPhone

This is perhaps the easiest and most immediate change you can make in how you interact with your technology. Smartphones are programmed to emit bright blue light so that you can see them even in harsh daylight, but this setting allows you to set a time frame when your phone will switch over to a warm display each evening. To activate, select your preferences from under the “Display & Brightness” tab in your settings. The muted blue light and emphasized red-orange tones have a soothing effect and set the mood for sleep. 

2. Get a New Kind of Alarm Clock 

Train yourself to wake up with the sun by using a lamp that will imitate sunrise. Our personal favorite? Sunlight Inside’s “Bottled Sunshine” lamp. The tone of the lamp changes throughout the day, so you can set it to shine like crisp blue morning light when you want to wake up, fade to a red tone in the afternoon and evening—and will even switch to candlelight mode for ambient mood lighting. These lamps also emit no UV light, so you can get the mental health benefits of sunlight without the risk of skin and eye damage.

3. Trade Out Your Bulbs

Swap LED lights and other harsh bulbs for dim red-tinted ones on accent lamps you use at night. Adding red-tinted night lights to your home is an especially good idea, so you don’t need to turn on bright overheads for midnight trips to the bathroom or for a cup of water.

Image via Pixel Eyewear | ALIGN:RIGHT

4. Get Blue Light Filtering Glasses

Foggy orange glasses coming to mind like a blast from the past? New technology is making blue-light-filtering glasses stylish and affordable. Check out Pixel Eyewear’s Computer Glasses. They come in 15 different styles, so they’re not just a shield for your computer-glued eyes: they’re a fashion piece as well.

5. Simply put your phone away

Easier said than done—we get it—but think how good you’ll feel with all that sleep.


Written by Mallory Abreu

Mallory is a writer currently based in Des Moines, Iowa, where she works as a home design editor for Better Homes & Gardens. This New England native began her career at the Boston Globe covering music and arts beats, and has since had her work featured in Boston Magazine, Magnolia Journal, BH&G, and other national publications. Catch her playing piano and ogling old homes in her free time. View her portfolio at www.malloryabreu.com and follow her on IG at @mal.abreu.

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