How blue light is affecting your sleep quality

by Laura Harrington on Feb 03, 2023

iphone on bed

Blue light is part of the visible light spectrum. What makes it different is that it has shorter, higher energy wavelengths compared to other colours on the spectrum. It’s been shown in recent years that this high-energy light can disrupt our sleep quality. 

Losing sleep 

Over the last several decades, people are sleeping less and sleeping poorly. This decline can’t be helped by the fact that up to 80% of New Zealanders use their phone within an hour of bedtime. 

Additionally, COVID-19 hasn’t helped – a portion of people that slept well pre-pandemic experienced worse sleep quality during lockdown measures. 

How blue light disrupts your sleep 

Bright light such as sunlight helps keep us awake, productive, and alert during the day. This is our circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle, in action – what our bodies are naturally good at. Sunlight happens to contain blue light. 

This is great news for us as it enables us to get through our to-do lists and stops us from falling asleep in that 3pm meeting. The problem is when we get too much exposure to blue light at night, such as light from our phones, TVs and laptops, a sleep hormone called melatonin is suppressed. Melatonin signals to us that it’s bedtime by making us sleepy, so when it is inhibited our sleep quality might suffer. 

How to support your sleep quality 

Not all is lost, though – there’s plenty we can do to manage blue light, so we wake up feeling refreshed and rested. 

  • Tip #1: Set an alarm. 

Use your devices for good by setting an alarm to step away from your screens an hour or two before bedtime. 

  • Tip #2: Set the mood with a red or amber-light lamp. 

Amber and red light are less likely to affect our circadian rhythm, so if you’re winding down for bed with a book, try turning on an amber or red night light. 

  • Tip #3: Get plenty of vitamins to rebuild your internal blue light filter. 

Our eyes contain a macular pigment that may help filter blue light. It’s believed that the denser this macular pigment is, the more blue light it may filter out. Regular supplementation with carotenoids vitamins like lutein and zeaxanthin can help increase the density of your macular pigment. 


The bottom line 

Too much of a good thing, in the case of blue light, leads to tossing, turning, and pressing snooze on your phone too many times in the morning. Since devices aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, learning how to manage blue light exposure before bed is a more realistic way of improving our sleep. After all, sleep is the best medicine.