Insomnia? Color May Be the Problem — and the Antidote

Photo (cc) by Alyssa L. Miller

Your iPad or Kindle could be preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep. And no, it’s not because you’re so engrossed in reading that you can’t put it down.

Experts say the blue light in the backlit screens of electronic devices, especially smaller screens, tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime so it releases less melatonin, a hormone that helps people fall asleep, according to Consumer Reports.

“The smaller the screen, the closer you hold it to your eyes,” says Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, who heads the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “That concentrates the light, filling your visual field with it, which is why phones, tablets and laptops have such an impact on your ability to relax before bedtime.”

A 2014 study by Harvard Medical School compared people who read electronic books to those reading printed books before bedtime.

“… The use of [light-emitting electronic] devices before bedtime prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep, delays the circadian clock, suppresses levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, reduces the amount and delays the timing of REM sleep, and reduces alertness the following morning,” the study said.

The best solution to blue-light emitting, potentially sleep-inhibiting electronics is to simply avoid them in the hours before you go to bed.

But if you’re not ready to give up your Kindle or smartphone at night, here’s a cheap solution: don a pair of orange glasses. CR said a pair of blue-light blocking amber-tinted glasses may help reverse portable electronics’ effects on melatonin levels.

You might feel a little silly wearing orange-lensed sunglasses to read on your Kindle or check Facebook on your smartphone at night, but a Swiss study found that wearing blue-light blocking glasses, compared with clear glasses, can help you sleep.

“Our participants felt significantly more sleepy and less vigilant” when wearing the blue blocker glasses, the study said.

I not only work on my computer at night, I also read on my Kindle Fire in bed before I try to fall asleep. The light from my Kindle does bother my eyes, so I changed my settings from white to sepia, and I have the brightness set to low.

I also have a lot of trouble falling asleep, so I just bought a pair of blue-light blocking amber-tinted glasses online for $9.99. It’s worth a try!

Do you use an e-reader or another type of blue-light emitting screen before you go to bed? Do you think it impacts your sleep? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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