If you’re tossing and turning while desperately wishing to fall asleep, it is better to continue with the parade instead of rolling over to turn on your smartphone. In fact, gazing at your phone’s screen in the hopes of catching some zzz is mostly a terrible idea. This is where the question of how smartphone light affects your brain and body pops in. And the fact of the matter is, the effects are pretty bad.
Your phone and other such devices emit blue light to ensure that you can see your screen and subsequently operate your phone in broad daylight. However, when you peer into your phone at night, your brain confuses it with daylight and keeps you wide awake. This is the chief explanation of the effects of smartphone light on your brain. The implications are far-reaching and aren’t limited to just this impact. Here is a look at how smartphone light affects your brain and body:
Effects on your sleep cycle
Primarily, the blue light emitted from smartphone devices disrupts sleep. It prevents you from falling asleep easily. Not so surprisingly, 95% of people are guilty of using their smartphone for one reason or another before getting into bed. The survey also reveals that half of these check their phone immediately if they wake up in the middle of the night.
The addiction to a smartphone doesn’t take a pause here though. A study from IDC Research indicates that 80% of smartphone users check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up. The unfortunate fact is that excess of anything is poisonous such as this smartphone addiction.
The blue light from the devices tends to hamper your circadian rhythm. This is the internal biological clock of the body that regulates sleeping and wakefulness. Since blue light from your smartphone screen tricks the brain into thinking that it is daylight when you are cozy under the covers, you end up alert.
Subsequently, melatonin production is disturbed. Melatonin is the hormone that promotes sleep, which is why you are unable to sleep. Dr. Michael J. Breus, clinical psychologist, and sleep therapist sums up the effects of blue light.
He explains, “There are about 30,000 cells inside your eye that are reactive to the wavelength of light which would be considered blue. Blue runs in about the 460 nanometer range, in terms of the spectrum of light. That particular spectrum of light hits these cells and makes them send a signal to an area of the brain known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus and tells it to turn off melatonin production. Melatonin is the key that starts the engine for sleep.”
A study backs this too. It categorized its participants into two groups. One group read a paperback for four hours before bed for five consecutive days. The other group followed the same practice but read an e-reader.
The results showed the group that read on an electronic device complained about the difficulty in falling asleep. On average, it took 10 minutes longer for e-readers to fall asleep and they showed significantly less rapid eye movement (REM) sleep as compared to print readers.
Effects of bluelight on your vision and eyes
Another answer to how smartphone light affects your brain and body is that it adds to eye discomfort. It is still uncertain if the prolonged use of smartphones and other e-devices correlates with vision decline. However, what is well-established and backed by research is that it chips in strain on eyes and discomfort.
Gary Heiting, OD, senior editor of AllAboutVision.com elucidates, “No one knows for sure at this point if prolonged use of digital devices actually causes permanent damage to the eyes but it’s well established that it causes eye strain and discomfort.”
This impact of the smartphone light is termed as digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome. Common characteristics of such a condition include head, neck or back pain, blurred vision, eye fatigue, and irritable or dry eyes.
Statistics support these findings. A report, Hindsight Is 20/20/20: Protect Your Eyes from Digital Devices, by The Vision Council outlines that 61% of the US citizens experience eye strain due to use of electronic devices for extended periods. This is around 2 out of 3 people who experience eye strain.
The concern for long-term eye damage due to smartphone and other electronic devices is also on the cards. The high-energy visible (HEV) light emitted by such devices has shown to damage the retina tissue in animal studies. Such retinal changes are linked to macular degeneration, which is the leading reason behind permanent vision loss in elderly people. However, these suspicions are not clear yet.
Effects of blue light on the brain
In addition to restlessness and eye discomfort, the blue light from smartphones also leads to brain damage. To begin with, a disturbed night’s rest can impair your memory temporarily the next day.
In addition to this, poor sleep from incomplete sleep can also make it harder to learn or cope with the happenings of the day. At the same time, extended disturbance in sleep can lead to the buildup of neurotoxin, which makes it challenging to get proper sleep in the long haul. Needless to say but if you are unable to slumber and can’t fetch the recommended amount of sleep, then you are at an increased risk of health concerns due to lack of sleep.
Some of these concerns include mushroomed risk of certain cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases, and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
Effects of smartphone blue light on the body
The blue light from electronic devices sets off a chain reaction in the body with disrupted melatonin production. As the sleep schedule is ruined, it gives way to numerous health problems. Most of all, the impact is felt by the eyes in the form of eye strain, discomfort, and probable retinal damage.
Research is also debating if blue light leads to the development of cataracts. By confusing the circadian rhythm, the blue light also disturbs the stability of hormonal levels. This swells the risk of obesity that is considered as a health epidemic with an average 35% obesity risk in the US.
Hampered melatonin secretion also sets the foundation for certain cancers, heart disease, and diabetes. A Harvard study finds out that interrupted and eventually shifted circadian rhythm correlates with increased blood sugar levels. This puts you into a pre-diabetic state. Researchers also associate short sleep with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and risk of depression.
Now that is clear how smartphone light affects your brain and body, you can take steps to protect your sleep, eyes, brain, and the body. Here are some precautionary measures:
- Consider installing an app that filters blue and green wavelength at night
- Avoid looking into bright screens 2-3 hours before heading to bed
- Use dim lights as your bedtime nears.
- If you have to work at night, opt for wearing blue light blocking glasses
- Expose yourself to bright lights during the day to keep yourself alert during the day. This will also boost your ability to sleep during the night
All in all, the effects of smartphone and other electronic devices on your brain and body are numerous. It is advisable to limit the usage of smartphone, which although impractical, can be undertaken as your near your bedtime hours. Or you can try to munch on sleep-inducing foods before bedtime.