Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How to Improve Your Sleep Without Giving Up Your Evening Screen Time

In our last post we looked at how spending time on smartphones, tablets, and other screens at night can prevent you from falling asleep (or getting enough sleep). In this post, we'll review some of the ways you can tweak your screen time to get to sleep sooner and be better rested the next day. And, as you'll see, you don't necessarily need to give up your electronic reading time before bed.

As noted in our previous post, computer, phone, and tablet screens can interfere with our sleep patterns because they emit light in the blue wavelength, which our brains associate with daylight, and with wakefulness (certain e-reader screens don't have this problem). What if you could adjust the wavelength to make it more conducive to sleep?

Changing Your Screen's Color Temperature

That's the idea behind a programs and apps like Flux, which has caught on with a lot of heavy computer users over the last year or so. Flux automatically adjusts the color temperature of the light your computer screen emits according to the time of day. During daylight hours, your screen will look as it normally does. After sundown (or later in the evening), Flux changes the color of the light emitted by your screen to more reddish, lower temperature that's more conducive to sleep.

Flux has gotten a lot of acclaim, but so far seems to be available only for PCs and Mac computers. One mobile app that we've seen mentioned (such as in this New York Times article) is Twilight, which adjusts the color of light coming from your screen based on the time of day. As with Flux, you can set the app to not activate for certain apps (such as web browser when you're streaming a movie).

Bulbs & Glasses that Offer Better Nighttime Light

A few other would-be solutions go beyond your reading device and change the type of light entering your eyes from your surroundings. One of them, the Drift Light, adapts the light in your room. It's an LED lightbulb that contains circuitry to control how much light it emits, and when. You can use it as a regular bulb, or switch it into "Midnight Mode," which gradually dims over a half hour or so until it finally shuts off.

There are other settings ("Daytime" and "Moonlight") you can use, and in all three modes the Drift Light casts a warmer temperature light than the typical blue light.

The Times article notes that mainstream lightbulb producers have gotten into the business of bulbs that emit less blue light or can be adjusted to do so, including Philips and General Electric.

Another solution (also mentioned in the Times article) takes a totally different approach: altering all the color that comes into your eyes. You wear glasses with orange or amber lenses that filter out blue light from your entire surroundings, from your room lighting to your device screens. A person interviewed in the piece bought a pair of orange-tinted glasses over the Internet for $8, made by the safety-glasses manufacturer Uvex.

There can be many different shades and varieties of colored glasses, and claims that they improve one's ability to sleep may be based on anecdotal evidence rather than scientific studies. Still, with an affordable pair like the one the interviewee mentions, you can try the idea and not be out a lot of money.

Have you tried any of these or other ways to sleep better without giving up screen time in the evening? Let us all know by leaving a comment below.

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