Artificial light emitted from digital gadgets are causing sleep-related problems in people, results of a new scientific study show.
The research, published in the journal of Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, shows that using devices such as smartphones or flat screen televisions at bedtime decreases the quality of sleep.
The researchers note that the artificial light (also known as blue light) emitted by these electronics cause sleep disorders that affect many people worldwide.
"The most important take-away is that blue light at night time really does decrease sleep quality. Sleep is very important for the regeneration of many functions in our body," said Dr Lisa Ostrin, lead author of the study and assistant professor at University Of Houston College Of Optometry.
During the research process, study participants – aged between 17 and 42 years – were given blue light blocking glasses to wear three hours before bedtime as they used various digital devices for two weeks.
The study participants reported falling asleep faster and sleeping better and much longer than they normally would when using digital devices without blue light blocking glasses.
Results showed that these people recorded a 58 per cent increase in the levels of a type of chemical known as melatonin that signals to the body that it is time to sleep.
Higher levels of the chemical were achieved when wearing the glasses compared to levels induced by over-the-counter melatonin supplements, usually purchased by people with sleep issues.
Limit use at night
To offset the effects of artificial light, Dr Ostrin is urging people to limit time spent interacting with digital devices at night.
Alternatively, she recommended the use of computer glasses that block blue light or anti-reflective lenses that offset the effects of artificial light at night.
“Some devices even include night mode settings that limit blue light exposure,” she said.
The largest source of blue light is sunlight but it is also found in most LED-based devices.
The light boosts alertness by activating photoreceptors which suppress melatonin during the day, thus keeping the body active.
"By using blue light blocking glasses, we are decreasing input to the photoreceptors, so we can improve sleep and still continue to use our devices. That's nice, because we can still be productive at night," added Dr Ostrin.