You might not have been aware of it, but your smartphone emits a blue light that helps you read things on it even during the day. The light cannot be adjusted or turned off and it continually emits through the screens of every electronic device you own. The problem with the light is that it mimics the sun’s brightness and confuses your brain into thinking that it’s daytime even overnight! This prevents the brain from releasing melatonin and leaves you without sleep, which is why experts suggest turning off all electronic devices at least 2 hours before going to bed.
Melatonin is the body’s sleeping hormone which is produced by a part of your brain called the pineal gland. The research about the effect of the blue light from smartphones led to the discovery of a photoreceptor called Melanopsin which was found in retinal ganglion cells sensitive to blue light. Since the discovery, scientists have been able to identify the blue light as the culprit behind sleeping difficulties.
The blue light from our smartphones affects teenagers even more due to the shifting of their circadian rhythm during adolescence. Playing a video game or watching TV before you sleep can also postpone your rest and make getting up in the morning difficult.
Blue light isn’t the only concern
Recently, Dr. Martin Blank from the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics at Colombia University has joined forces with many scientists around the world to write an appeal to the UN about the dangers of electromagnetic emitting devices such as smartphones and Wi-Fi. They are concerned by more than just being unable to sleep – there are indications that these devices are also related to cancer.
Another concerning fact is that a child’s brain absorbs 4 times the amount of radiation as adults, and children nowadays are spending most of their time in front of tablets and smartphones.
In China, screen addiction is considered a clinical disorder and there are rehabilitation centers being opened there as we speak. Although their efficiency is yet to be determined, the necessity of these centers says a lot about the dangers of the current technological age.
What can you do?
Limiting your or your child’s amount on screens is vital, and you should turn off all electronic devices at least 2 hours before going to bed. If you need to do something before sleeping, try to read a book and relax.
You can also download an app called f.lux which adjusts the color of your screen to the time of day and turns off the constantly emitting blue light. The app can be used on computers, phones and tablets as well. Visit the f.lux website online to have more insight about how staring at our screens affects our sleep and to also see the science behind the app. And, try to take a daily break from all screens – it will certainly do you good.