Blue light and smartphones: Can reducing blue light help you sleep better?

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There are many apps that claim to improve sleep by filtering out the blue light emitted by device’s display.

But do these apps actually work? There aren’t any big researches or studies to back these claims but few scientists might want to get to the roots of it.

We live in a generation where getting through a day without our smartphone might give us withdrawal symptoms. But we also end up spending our precious time scrolling through social media, internet browsing or checking news updates for that matter. That being said, we often scroll our way to sleepless nights just to have a glimpse of other people’s personal lives social media. Not just that, we put our eyes at risk too.  

Well, if you are losing your sleep over the blue light coming from the screen, there’s an app for that. In fact there are many apps that claim to improve sleep by filtering out the blue light emitted by device’s display.

But do these apps actually work? There aren’t any big researches or studies to back these claims but few scientists might want to get to the roots of it.

A quick research by Jon Hamilton, correspondent at National Public Radio, US, helped find out. He called a few people for an in-depth information, which he put forth.

Lisa Ostrin, an assistant professor at the University of Houston College of Optometry uses an iPhone which has the Night Shift feature that lets you filter out blue light.

Without a filtering app, cellphones and tablets expose users to an alarming amount of blue light, she says, "Especially as people are lying in bed and have their screens just a few inches from their face."

And the blue light prevents special photoreceptor cells in our eyes from triggering the release of a sleep harmone, she adds.

Ostrin was part of a team that showed this in a study published this summer in the journal Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics.

In the study, 21 people were asked to put on specially designed glasses after sunset everyday to filter out the blue light. "So essentially we blocked the input to those photoreceptors that tell our body it's still daytime," she says.

As a result, the participants' melatonin levels had increased by 58 per cent and they reported better sleep.

Ortin believes that apps that claim to filter the blue light from device screens are less effective than blue-blocking glasses, but are still helpful.

Brian Zoltowski from Southern Methodist University in Dallas who studies blue light and sleep also uses the Night Shift feature on his iPhone.

He also found different ways to reduce the blue light coming from all of his other screens during the evening. But unfortunately, everything he saw in the evening was some shade of orange colour. And he wasn’t too sure whether he was getting better sleep.

Zoltowski says that people should remember that devices are just one source of blue light. Others include indoor lighting, streetlights and car headlights. So he believes that a filtering app may not be necessary especially if you are already getting a good night's sleep.

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