Right now, as you’re reading this, humans are focusing their eyes on screens the most they ever have in the history of our existence. That includes right before bed! If you’re scrolling social media or checking emails as you’re about to rest your head for the night, you’re not setting yourself up for the most restful night of sleep. If you do have to, however, (or it’s a habit you can’t break), some recent studies have shown that wearing blue light glasses may help you rest easier. Blue light glasses have been linked to aid computer eye strain, but here’s one way scientists suspect blue light glasses can help with our sleep.
May reduce the suppression of melatonin.
In case you need a refresher on your hormones, melatonin is a hormone that the body releases to help control our sleep-wake cycles. It’s used as a dietary supplement for people who suffer from insomnia, or, the inability to sleep.
Some scientists believe blue light glasses can help with our sleep due to the relationship between blue light and melatonin. Screen use before bed is thought to suppress our body from releasing the melatonin we need to have a good night’s sleep. That’s because the blue light from our screens triggers the brain to think that it’s time to be alert. The blue light from your phone or tablet mimics natural daylight, which of course is associated with being awake.
Results from a 2019 study in the Journal of Psychiatric Researchfound that insomnia sufferers who wore amber-tinted blue light glasses for two hours before bed experienced improved sleep. They were able to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Though melatonin levels were not specifically measured in this study, researchers suspect the blue light glasses prevented melatonin from being suppressed.
Other reasons not to use screens before bed.
In addition to blue light being a potential culprit for sleep impairment, looking at screens right before bed disrupts your sleep for other reasons. For one, doing so keeps your mind engaged for longer. When your mind is engaged, it’s more difficult for the body to realize that it’s time to fall asleep.
This has a snowball effect of delaying REM sleep. Even after you’ve put your device down, your brain may still be thinking about something you saw or interacted with. Any emotion—whether happy, sad or anything in between—is a barrier to experiencing REM sleep.
What to do?
If blue light glasses can help with our sleep, then picking up a pair for use in the evenings may be in your best interest. You can also implement best practices like cutting off screen use at least an hour before bed or even keeping your device in another room at night. Need it for your alarm? Try an old-school alarm clock instead!
Remember—screen use is only slated to increase as screens become more abundant in our everyday lives. As we learn more about the ways that screens affect our eyes, it’s important for us to pay attention and use this knowledge to prevent damaging effects where we can.