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The impact of electronic devices on sleep

Bright light from electronic devices like television sets, laptop computers and smartphones is bad for sleep. The “blue light” emitted by these devices suppresses melatonin, the hormone that tells our body that it is time to sleep. (We will take a longer look at melatonin, blue light and circadian rhythm in a forthcoming blog post).

Most of us have heard how bad this light is for our sleep, but how many of us are ready to banish these devices before we go to bed?


If you don’t think you can break your technology habit, perhaps technology can help you. Apple recently introduced iPhone Night Shift mode, which shifts the phone’s screen from its usual blue light to a yellower shade. (Android has a similar feature).

The aim is to reduce the amount of blue light emitted by the screen, in the hope that it will improve your sleep. Quite honestly, there is no proof that it works, although a recent study by Van Der Lely et al. (2015) showed that, in comparison to normal glasses, “blue blocker” glasses reduced the suppression of melatonin. Are you still with me? It’s not perfect, but it is better than nothing.

I was recently asked about the effect of WiFi and radio waves on sleep. I have done some bibliographic research and concluded that, for the time being, no significant effects on sleep quality have been demonstrated. However, scientific studies generally look at statistical effects on a sample of the population, so this does not mean that nobody in the sample was disturbed by radio waves. To put it another way, sleep quality is not generally affected by WiFi, but if you feel that it could be a problem for you, turn everything off!

The best bet, then, is to turn off all your electronic devices with screens at least one hour before you go to bed, and keep them out of the bedroom. Good luck with that!

The 4 June 2016, by  in
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