In the past few years, many scientists claimed that the blue light emitted by the screens of many electronic devices would seriously disrupt our sleep patterns. To solve this problem, almost every laptop or smartphone now has a specific “night” setting aimed at reducing blue light emissions. However, a new study of these night modes shows that these settings have no effect on improving overall sleep results. The only way to improve sleep is to not use the screen at all before going to bed.
Decades ago, scientists discovered that the small retinal cells behind our eyes produced a light-sensitive retinal protein called melanin. Melanin is produced under the action of light. It helps to regulate our circadian rhythms and tells our brains to stay awake and alert.
Melanin has also been found to be particularly sensitive to light in the blue spectrum with a wavelength of about 480 nanometers. This supports a number of assumptions, that the use of LED screens and smart in a couple of hours before going to bed mobile phone will disturb sleep. For this reason, most smartphone manufacturers have introduced night mode, which aims to add a warm tone to the screen at night. This mode is called Night Shift on iPhone devices, Night Light on Pixel, and Blue Light Filter on Samsung.
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But can these functions really improve sleep? A research team from Brigham Young University and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center answered this question. The researchers recruited 167 young subjects and divided them into three groups for a seven-day study. The first group was asked to use the iPhone with the Night Shift function turned on for one hour before going to bed; the second group also asked to use the iPhone for one hour, but the Night Shift function was not turned on; the third group did not use the phone at all one hour before going to bed.
Use a wrist-worn accelerometer to track sleep quality and calculate various results, including time to fall asleep, total sleep time, and frequency of waking up during sleep. Chad Jensen, one of the researchers working on the project, said the results are quite clear. After digging into the data, the researchers divided the cohort into two groups, those who slept an average of about 7 hours a night and those who slept less than 6 hours a night.
In the long-term sleep deprivation group, Jensen said: “When you are super tired, no matter what you do before going to bed, you will fall asleep. Sleep is so stressful that what happens before going to bed really has no effect.” In a cohort that slept for about 7 hours a night, the researchers found that the sleep quality of subjects who did not use their mobile phones at all before going to bed had some improvement. In contrast, there is no difference between the two groups using mobile phones.
Jensen said that these results show that blue light has little or no related effect on people’s falling asleep speed or sleep quality. Instead, he claims that the psychological involvement of using a smartphone is a more powerful factor that changes a person’s sleep quality.
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