During sleep, the body rests while the brain charges.
In our digital age, the high quality of sleep we need can be taken hostage by the high energy emissions from computers, phones, tablets and laptops. This lighting, known as blue light, degrades the quality of sleep necessary for optimal functioning and often makes us grumpy, snappy, and less productive the next day.
If you put one and one together – pandemic + length of time in front of a screen – the sum total is probably poor sleep. If you’re consistently glued to a computer screen before bed for whatever reason, you may have figured out why your normally sweet disposition has turned sour.
As science would have it, some researchers have found that glasses with blue light filter lenses can restore a good night’s sleep.
Block the light
LED lights don’t just emit blue light. All light sources, including fluorescent lamps, emit blue light. This level of emissions sheds the human body from its natural clock, known as the circadian rhythm. This happens because our brain perceives the presence of bright light indoors as daylight and stops releasing melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep and regulates the body’s 24-hour sleep-wake cycle.
This new study supports one possible solution: wearing glasses that filter out the blue light. The filter prevents the short wavelengths with high energy from reaching the retina.
In a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers from Indiana University (IU) and the University of Washington (UW) business schools found that workers who wore these filtered glasses got more sleep and performed better at work.
They conducted two experiments at two US multinational companies based in Brazil. In each group of workers, 63 managers and 67 customer representatives, they wore blue-light filter glasses half the time and half the time wearing glasses with false lenses.
After collecting data from 519 daily observations in the manager group and 529 in the customer representative group, the researchers found that blocking this light improved sleep and helped improve attitudes and behavior at work. The workers who benefited the most were those who slept later in the day. Managers said they slept 5% longer with their glasses on, compared to 6% of customer representatives. The quality of sleep was also higher.
When managers wore the glasses, they said they were 8.51% more engaged, while the customer service reps said they were 8.25% more engaged.
“[F]By filtering out blue light, much of the suppressive effects of light on melatonin production are removed, allowing the evening surge in melatonin to occur and thus enabling the process of falling asleep, ”said study co-author Christopher M. Barnes, PhD, Professor of Management at UW Business School, in a press release.
The call center employees also became 17.82% more helpful, which in turn reduced the negative work behavior by 11.76%. The glass-bearing employees also achieved a 9% increase in customer ratings.
Call center workers have more to gain by blocking blue light as they often work late and sleep during the day. The researchers found that the glasses are more helpful for night owls than for early risers.
“While most of us can benefit from less exposure to blue light, owl workers seem to benefit more as they encounter major misalignments between their internal clock and externally controlled work hours,” said Cristiano L. Guarana, assistant professor the IU Business School said in the press release.
Although the study shows that blue light filtering glasses can benefit wearers, the results did not say they were effective for everyone and did not address the strain on the computer eyes. Glasses can be an inexpensive way to improve your sleep. However, if you are having trouble sleeping, consult your doctor to determine the underlying cause.
Not everyone agrees
Some experts question the usefulness of blue light filter glasses. Amir Mohsenin, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Ruiz Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science at McGovern Medical School in Houston, said he doesn’t think they’re helping.
“We don’t actually have any data to support blue-blocking glasses because they’re better for your eyes if you’re using a computer. In fact, I’d say we don’t know if wearing blue block glasses could do any harm. It’s hard to recommend something without knowing more details about it, ”said Dr. Mohsenin in a January press release from the Texas Medical Center in Houston. “The reality is that most of the problems we have with computers and eye strain don’t come from blue light. It depends on how we use the computers. “
How blue light disturbs sleep
All types of light can interfere with melatonin production, but blue light has the greater effect, according to an article by researchers at Harvard Medical School. The researchers compared the effects of blue and green light of similar brightness on melatonin for 6.5 hours of exposure. Blue light suppressed melatonin for three hours compared to green light after 1.5 hours.
Here are some tips to help reduce nighttime exposure to blue light:
Use dim red lights at night
Avoid looking at bright screens two to three hours before bed
Use blue light filter glasses when working at night
Install an app on your smartphone that will filter blue and green lights
During the day, it’s okay to enjoy the sunlight and work with other bright lights. These can improve your alertness and mood. When the sun goes down, it’s time to avoid blue light so your body and mind can relax.