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The Effects of Blue Light on Sleep

By: Madison Harpenau

We have all heard it before, using our phone or tablet before bed can ruin our sleep. But why? And if it is so bad, how can I change my habits?

Sleep is the activity that we engage in daily which can help us feel rested or restored. Sleep helps us to consolidate memories and store information that we have learned throughout our day (Stickgold & Walker, 2005). When it comes to sleep there are two important words that we need to know about: circadian rhythm and melatonin. Our circadian rhythm is a fancy term to describe our internal clock (National Sleep Foundation, 2019). This clock runs throughout our day impacting our waking and sleeping. Melatonin is a hormone that our body begins to make around the time that the sun goes down (National Sleep Foundation, 2019). This hormone impacts our sleepiness.

Our electronic devices, ranging from phones to televisions, can impact our restful consolidation of memories at night. Electronic devices emit waves of light classified as “blue light”. Blue light waves come in shorter wavelengths compared to red, yellow, or orange light wavelengths (Burkhart & Phelps, 2009). These shorter wavelengths are the only wavelengths that affect certain receptors in our brain that are related to our circadian rhythms (Burkhart & Phelps, 2009). When our circadian rhythm is interrupted by the blue light from our phones or devices our brain delays the production of melatonin (Chang, Aeschbach, Duffy, & Czeisler, 2014).

With the understanding of how the brain, body, and sleep are impacted by blue light, how do we fix it?  

Set a Bedtime

The average adult should get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. The average school-age child (5- 10 years old) should get 10-11 hours a night. The average teenager should get 8.5- 9 hours a night. Knowing these ranges, set a bedtime for your self that will allow you to achieve the suggested amount of sleep based upon the time you have to get up in the morning.

Create a Bedtime Routine

Take a shower or a bath, wash your face, start a diffuser with essential oils in it… there are endless things that you could incorporate into a bedtime routine that does not involve looking at electronic devices. Try to keep your routine consistent and at the same time every night in order to help your brain and body get used to it. It will remind your body that it is getting close to bedtime and it is time to unwind.  

Put Down Your Phone

Avoid electronics for roughly an hour before bed. Find a book that interests you, take a bath, color in a coloring book, or give your children a bath and read them a book. While avoiding your phone for a whole hour before bed might seem daunting there are a number of ways that you can fill the time!

Amber- Tinted Glasses

There have been several studies recently that have shown the benefit of amber-tinted glasses. Amber -tinted glasses have the ability to reflect blue light rays, meaning they are not absorbed through your eye and have less impact on your sleep. These glasses can be worn throughout the day, but are best if worn from 6 PM until you go to bed to reduce the impact that blue light has on you (Burkhart & Phelps, 2009).

Avoid Alcohol and Other Drugs

While alcohol and drugs may help you to relax, much like blue light emissions, alcohol and drugs impact your REM sleep. This means that while you may fall asleep quickly, you are more likely to wake up more frequently and feel less rested (CEU).

Other Ideas to Help Sleep

Use night lights that have a red light, they are less alerting to our eyes and brain if we have to get up in the night.

Reduce the blue light that your phone, tablet, or computer emits. On Apple products this is called “Night Shift”, on Android products, this is called “Night Mode”. Turning this setting on will cause your phone to emit more red light wave as it gets later in the day.

For additional ideas to improve your sleep reach out to the staff at Washington Park Chiropractic.

Madison Harpenau is a Doctor of Occupational Therapy student from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. Madison is anticipated to graduate in August of 2019. She has completed two prior internships in the settings of outpatient pediatrics and inpatient rehabilitation hospital. Madison’s Doctoral Project is focused on Connecting Holistic Health Care Professionals; such as Chiropractic and Occupational Therapy. Her project is largely rooted in health and wellness promotion for all clients.


Burkhart, K., & Phelps, J. R. (2009). Amber lenses to block blue light and improve sleep: A randomized trial. Chronobiology International, 26(8), 1602-1612.

Chang, A.-M., Aeschbach, D., Duffy, J. F., & Czeisler, C. A. (2014). Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 1-6.

National Sleep Foundation. (2019). What is circadian rhythm? Retrieved March 14, 2019, from

National Sleep Foundation. (2019). How the ups and downs of melatonin affect your sleep time. Retrieved March 14, 2019, from

Sheth, M., & Thomas, H. (2019). Managing sleep deprivation in older adults: A role for occupational therapy. American Occupational Therapy Association, 1-9. Retrieved from

Stickgold, R., & Walker, M. P. (2005). Memory consolidation and reconsolidation: What is the role of sleep? Trends in Neuroscience, 28(8), 408-415. 2005.06.004


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