Skip to content

The blue light blues

Sunrise on a camping trip
Using the computer at night
Using the computer at night

It’s a well-known fact that using computers and tablets before going to bed can disrupt your sleep schedule. That’s because the light disrupts your body’s natural rhythm and impacts the production of the hormone melatonin.

I struggle with this, because it’s so easy to get pulled into the computer, reading news and blogs late into the night. I’m a complete sucker for the addictive feeds of Facebook and Twitter.

Scientists are finding that the culprit is blue light, which has been increasing with our use of LEDs. Old-style light bulbs and monitors gave off light with more red wavelengths, which was not as disruptive to our brains. Blue light, however, not only impacts our production of melatonin, but it continues to have an impact for a while after we leave the screen.

Here are three tips to help you get less blue light and reset your sleep clock:

Install f.lux

f.lux is a free application that adjusts the color of your screen according to the sun’s position in your location. You tell it where you are, and when the sun goes down, your screen slowly takes on an orange hue. You can still read and use the computer, but your eyes are no longer being bathed in blue light, which not only impacts your ability to sleep, but also may be responsible for things like retina damage and cataracts.

The colors do get pretty wacky, which is a challenge when I’m working in Photoshop. But it’s easy to disable f.lux for a period of time and then turn it back on again.

Set a night alarm

It’s easy on your phone, tablet, or computer to set a recurring alarm. I’ve known several folks who have a “Go to bed” alarm, some sort of pleasant ringtone that plays every night around bedtime as a reminder to shut down the computer.

No matter how quiet and peaceful the sound is, when my “Go to bed” alarm goes off, I am always surprised. “Oh! It’s late already?” That just illustrates how easy it is to get involved in what I’m doing and forget to sleep.

Go camping

Sunrise on a camping trip
Sunrise on a camping trip

This is my favorite solution to the blue light dilemma: Go camping!

A recent study showed that a weekend of camping — a couple of days and nights outdoors, without electronics, resets the circadian clock and adjusts the body’s melatonin production by several hours each day. Not only does that make it easier to go to sleep, it makes it easier to get up in the morning.

When we spend time outdoors, we see ourselves as part of the bigger picture. Eliminating distractions helps us solve problems and make decisions. Like blue light, spending time outdoors in nature has a lasting impact on us, and it’s a healthy one.