HOUSTON — While it’s tempting to use electronics before going to bed, it’s widely acknowledged that they can adversely impact our ability to sleep properly. That is, if we’re not wearing the right preventive spectacles, a new study finds.
Researchers at the University of Houston recruited 22 participants, aged 17 to 42, for a study on the effects of emitted blue light on sleep quantity and quality.
Participants were instructed to wear glasses that blocked short wavelength emissions over a two-week period, for the three hours preceding one’s normal bedtime.
Resuming digital activity as normal, participants saw a 58 percent increase in their nighttime melatonin levels after the experiment, which signals even better results than taking over-the-counter supplements that are meant to boost melatonin.
“The most important takeaway is that blue light at night time really does decrease sleep quality,” says lead researcher Dr. Lisa Ostrin in a university news release. “Sleep is very important for the regeneration of many functions in our body.”
In addition to heightened melatonin levels, participants reported sleeping more soundly, falling asleep faster, and increased sleeping duration (24 minutes, to be exact).
It’s important to note that while electronics emit high levels of artificial blue light — and affect us most at night — the sun is the biggest source of natural blue light emissions.
To prevent the negative effects of blue light exposure, the researchers recommend limiting screen time at night, applying screen filters to one’s monitor, wearing computer glasses that block blue light, and using anti-reflective lenses to offset the effects of artificial light.
As for the intervention used by the researchers, “by using blue blocking glasses, [we] can improve sleep and still continue to use our devices,” explains Ostrin. “That’s nice, because we can still be productive at night.”
The study’s findings were published June 27 in the Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics.