Why Your Phones Blue Light Isn’t Stopping You Sleeping

By Ben Hamill - May 17 2021
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Why Your Phones Blue Light Isn’t Stopping You Sleeping

For several years now we’ve been told that the blue light emitted from our smartphones can be detrimental to our sleeping patterns. And, that if we can’t put our phone away, using a blue light-reducing feature for at least an hour before bed is the best way to get a good night’s sleep. But if you’ve been making the effort to change your blue light habits and are still battling to sleep, a new study could provide insight as to why you’re not seeing any improvements.

Utah’s Brigham Young University conducted a study with regards to the impact of blue light-reducing features. The study focuses specifically on Apple’s Night Shift mode and the effect that it has on users’ quality of sleep. They concluded that it actually has no impact at all. In fact, their research suggests that blue light might not be the enemy we all thought it was.

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No Differences In Outcomes

Part of the Brigham Young University study involved researchers comparing the sleep outcomes of 167 individuals across three different categories: those who used their phones at night with Night Shift turned on, those who used their phones at night without the feature, and those who did not use a smartphone at all before bed.

After tracking the sleep outcomes of all participants, including the total duration of their sleep, the quality of their sleep and the time it took them to fall asleep, researchers found no real differences in sleep outcomes. The data showed that the only participants who enjoyed better sleep were those who stayed away from their screens entirely before going to bed.

The Effects Of Blue Light

The effects of blue light have long been debated and one of the most common beliefs is that any blue light emitted from electronic devices disrupts melatonin secretion. Melatonin is a hormone that helps us sleep. Apple introduced its Night Shift mode to devices in 2016. This feature is designed to significantly reduce the amount of blue light emitted from devices during the evening. It shifts the colours of the device’s display to warmer hues.

While Apple has never promised better sleep outcomes from this feature, it was created with the hope of reducing strain on the eyes, leading to more effective sleep cycles. After the initial study was unable to find any significant differences in sleep outcomes, the team split the sample group in two.

One group averaged seven hours of sleep per night while the other group slept less than six hours per night. The group that got seven hours saw a slight difference in the quality of their sleep based on the use of their phones before going to sleep. Participants who avoided scrolling through Instagram and texting their friends before bed enjoyed superior sleep quality. However, researchers say that this is less about the effect of blue light and more about the brain power it takes to interact with our phones as we try to wind down for the night.

As the new study shows, it turns out the light may not be the issue after all!

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