Trouble Falling a Sleep – Could be your electronics

Trouble falling asleep? That could be my mantra.  I am bone tired and yet as soon as I hit the pillow I am wide awake.  I can feel myself starting to drift off and then, boom, my mind jerks me back awake and I just lie there.  Ugh!  Or I drift off to sleep only to awaken in the middle of the night unable to fall back asleep.  Oh, what I would give for even 6 straight hours of sleep.

Trust me when I tell you this – I have tried everything. Sleepy time tea, warm milk with honey and nutmeg, no liquids after 8pm, meditation, relaxation exercises, breathing sequences, Benadryl.  You name it, I have been willing to give it a try.

Blue light affects sleep

Ok, well almost everything. The experts are constantly saying that we need to turn off all devices at least 2 hours before bed.  Seriously – 2 hours?!  By the time I get home from work, do the dinner thing and whatever else needs to be done – that would mean no devices at all on the weekday evenings.  Is that realistic?  That’s when I catch up with my family on Facebook, play a couple of games, and read a chapter in a book.  I also hold online chats with students a couple of nights a week and yes, computers and laptops count as devices.

So why the insistence that we turn off devices at least 2 hours before bed? It all has to do with blue light.  According to Scientific American the blue light emitted from our devices has a higher concentration than natural light and this affects our levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.  Normally melatonin would be released naturally by our bodies a few hours before bedtime as the sun sets.  The blue light from our devices, however, resets our body’s clocks to a later schedule which in turn interferes with our sleep.

So, what to do? I don’t know about you, but not using electronics after 8pm just is not practical – especially on those nights I meet with students.  Turns out that there are several blue light filters out there that you can install on your devices, yes even your computer and laptop.  These apps allow you to essentially implement a night mode by indicating your time zone and then automatically adjust the lighting of your device as the day progresses, from a strong blue light during the day to an amber color at night.  When I get home tonight, I’m going to install one of these apps on my IPad and computer and give it a go.  I’ll let you know the results in a couple of weeks.

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