Illuminating the Truth: The Real Impact of Smartphone Use on Sleep

Our smartphones are now ceaseless suns that hang over us in the digital twilight; but at night, worries about the amount of blue light they produce make the preachers and the proselytisers rant and rave, while scientists and laypeople clash about the effect of light on your sleep. Before you fall into a deep sleep, I would like to clarify a few things in one of the most misunderstood relations of our time: your screen time and your sleep time.

The Myth of Blue Light

The story has played out as a kind of drama: while we nestle in our beds with our smartphones, blue light from that phone is cast as a villain; certainly, it has deleterious effects, stealing melatonin and sleep from us. However, there is a new wrinkle in the story. New research is forcing us to question the script. It’s looking like the amount of blue light from our devices might not be the little guy stealing your sleep.

Delving Deeper Into the Night's Glow

In the light of new studies, the original blue light panic could be due for revision. A meta-analysis of 11 global studies in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews found no link between light from screens before bed and sleep problems. It is yet further reason to disregard the original alarms over our glowing gadgets.

BEYOND BLUE LIGHT: The Real Sleep Culprits

The Content Conundrum

The information that’s being consumed – whether it’s work emails or the listicle scroll – can fuel anxiety and disturb the calm that’s needed to lull yourself to sleep. This points to an important distinction: it’s not that our screens are glowing, it’s what they’re showing.

Of Notifications and Nighttime Nuisance

Being in the company of any of our digital devices – each of which can ring, ping, buzz or vibrate us awake with a message or alert – makes it imperative to perform some kind of digital tidying up before getting into bed. It could be as straightforward as disabling notifications altogether. Or it could be something as old fashioned as an evening wind-down ritual.

Dispelling Myths: Blue Light Accessories

With blue light framed as the villain, the market for shielding accessories boomed, including lenses and filters pitched as defences against the alleged foe. Yet many experts, from Stuart Peirson and sweeping reviews, have questioned the efficacy of such products, which may be selling themselves short.

Finding Equilibrium: Screen Sense Before Sleep

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I): A Guiding Light

The most effective approaches are those based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I), which teach the person how to develop habits that promote good sleep, such as setting a consistent bedtime and/or wake-up time, as well as cognitive strategies to calm the mind.

A Bright Side to Blue Light

Despite this, not everything that’s said about blue light is bad. When consumed at certain times of day, it can be beneficial. It’s all about balance and timing when it comes to light.

Conclusion: Navigating the Night

After all, the physics behind our screen problems is ultimately just foreground to our lifestyle. Taking back our sleep rights means seeking out smarter screen habits, especially at night.

The Lens on LENSES

Finally, in this discussion about digital devices and sleep, let’s turn our attention to lenses – and especially the more elaborate ‘blue-light-blocking’ accessories that have received so much attention as screen-time has accelerated. Blue-light-blocking lenses are widely sold, but whether they actually help you sleep better is a bit more up in the air. While reviewers and some experts praise the devices, others say the effects are minimal. Instead, the focus in current studies and in the increasingly comprehensive advice about sleep hygiene isn’t on electronic accessories, but on achieving ‘screen sense’ as you use devices. This makes much more sense. Balancing screen time and screen sense will get you better sleep, less blue light and fewer nights spent with gadgets glaring from your bed.

Jun 10, 2024
<< Go Back