It’s 1 A.M., you should be sleeping, but you’re glued to your smartphone, catching up on the latest news, Facebook Updates, and tweets. It turns out that the smartphones and tablets that keep you connected and organized may also be keeping you awake.
Our eyes perceive light in a range of wavelengths. Different wave lengths produce different color sensations and those sensations help tune your internal clock.
Newly discovered sensors in our eyes, known as Intrinsically Photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells, or ipRGCs, gather information about light levels. However, instead of sending it to the visual system, they send it to your body’s master clock in the brain. This clock controls the production of melatonin, which is essentially the hormone that makes you sleepy.
The problem is that the ipRGCs are particularly sensitive to blue light, which electronic devices such as smartphones, laptop, etc. emit in large doses. This light tells your brain’s master clock that it’s daylight outside, not the time for bed, so it suppresses melatonin production to keep you awake longer.
Light is one of the best biological cues we have to the day time. Millennia ago, when humans lived in caves, the light was virtually the only way we knew the time of day. Our brains evolved to associate sleep with sunlight, making us sleepy as the day gets darker and waking us back up again with the sunrise. The process is still the same today but, the advent of light-emitting devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computer screens have put is mechanism out of whack.
Teenagers are particularly immunized to this problem. Most of the people waste their time using phones and miss out opportunities. We live in a society where people are killing even a few seconds of boredom with a tap on their smartphone’s touchscreen. That is why it is becoming more and more difficult for everyone to keep their hand off of their smart devices even at night time. So, how can we avoid the effects of these smart beasts during night time?
There are so many free smartphone and computer apps available to tone down the blue wavelengths coming from your screen as the hour gets later. Experts also say that turning down the brightness setting and holding the screen further from your eyes can also help.
You can help yourself sleep by eating at the right times of day, shutting off screens well before going to sleep, and going to sleep when you’re tired.