Is Blue Light Keeping You Up at Night?

Mixing sleep with blue light doesn't work!
When you are exposed to too much blue light from laptops or your phone, you can throw off your sleep cycle. Learn how to manage this problem at work!

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Are you getting enough sleep? When you do sleep, is it high or low quality sleep? Sleep is one of the most important components of wellness. Yet, modern technology might decrease the quality and quantity of your sleep. The screens that we all stare at for much of the day emit blue light, which can throw off our sleep cycles. But, without a way to avoid screens, workers may be left wondering how to get their sleep back on track!

Why is Sleep Important?

Sleep is a basic source of recovery and replenishment for human beings. While sleep is important for many things in life, it is also helpful at work. When you sleep more at night, you tend to be more engaged with your work. You have more energy and a greater ability to concentrate and get things done when you have a good night’s sleep. This means that your performance also increases when you have more sleep. You are able to work longer and more accurately when you get the sleep you need.

When you have the proper amount of sleep, you are also more likely to help others at work. It’s hard to think about getting your own tasks done when you don’t have enough sleep. It’s even harder to think about how to help others then! When you have enough sleep, you have the energy to get your work done and to reach out to others. On the reverse, when you are depleted of energy you’re more likely to be cranky and act out at work. So, without sleep, you’re also more likely to lash out at others or to be rude to them. Overall, sleep strongly influences your behaviors at work.

When you don't have your sleep, whether because of blue light or not, you might leave others hanging!
When you don’t have your sleep, whether because of blue light or not, you might leave others hanging!

How Does Blue Light Interfere with Sleep?

When you stare at screens, you are receiving a lot of light from your device. Everyone’s circadian rhythm runs on a cycle. Part of what triggers that cycle is light. When it is light out, your body knows to wake up. Your body then sends signals that get stronger throughout the day that you should be alert and active. As the day goes on, the signals get weaker, and you start to get ready to go to sleep.

But, when you consume a lot of light, especially blue light, it throws that rhythm off. Your body can’t tell whether it should be awake or asleep, and it slows down the process that would naturally prepare you for bed. So, when you look at your phone or your computer before going to bed, you are making it less likely that you’ll fall asleep. While it might seem like harmless scrolling or answering a quick email here and there is innocuous, it can actually set you up for failure in your sleep.

Are you in danger of overdosing on blue light because of work?
Are you in danger of overdosing on blue light because of work?

What Can Workplaces Do to Decrease Blue Light Exposure?

Recent research shows that a very inexpensive solution might help employees to decrease their blue light consumption. Blue light glasses were shown to decrease the negative side effects of looking at screens. When employees wore blue light sunglasses while looking at their devices, especially at night, they had better sleep quality and quantity. This then made their engagement, performance, and helping behavior go up. It also decreased their counterproductive work behaviors.

Another possible solution is to allow employees to have more flexible work schedules, so that they can tailor their working hours to match with their natural cycles. So, if someone is more likely to get work done at night, and can’t avoid screen time, they might be able to start working later the next day. If you’re able to tailor your work around your sleep, instead of vice versa, your work outcomes will improve. We have talked about the importance of flexible schedules before.

Finally, workplaces can help their employees to decrease screen time by having a “black out” period that everyone follows. This is when employees commit to having a start and stop time for emails or other screen-related work tasks (e.g., Zoom calls). If no one is expected to send or respond to emails at night, and calls are not scheduled before or after hours, you can cut down on blue light that employees are exposed to. What can you suggest your workplace do to make sure that you’re getting less screen time and more sleep time?

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