Every day it seems like more research comes out claiming how electronic light impacts our sleep.
It’s no secret that being exposed to electronic light late at night can hurt your quality of sleep and your ability to fall asleep as well.
Staring at your phone or your computer in complete darkness is certainly not good for getting to sleep, but there are numerous other electronics that emit light that are all too common in the bedroom. Even the smallest amount of light from an electronic device can still hurt your quality of sleep.
This post aims to address pretty much every possible electronic device in your bedroom that can emit some amount of sleep-disrupting light. Furthermore, by following the methods outlined here, you can better understand how to avoid and block these lights for better rest.
But first, why are these electronic lights bad for sleep, to begin with?
Why electronic lights are bad for sleep
Electronics such as phones can obviously be harmful to your sleep when they vibrate or ring and wake you right up. However, the act of using electronics right before bed can also hurt your quality of sleep.
For one, electronic devices generally increase alertness. This is especially true if you are using electronic devices that are particularly engaging. For instance, watching an exciting TV show or sending emails on your computer keeps your mind active. However, when you are partaking in these activities late in the evening your body is kept in a state of arousal when really you should just be winding down. It takes some time for our minds to settle down so that we can easily slip into a relaxed state for sleep. Using electronic devices, especially stimulating ones like TVs or phones certainly don’t help with this1.
However, the act of engaging with electronics such as TVs, phones or computers isn’t the only way electronic devices keep us alert late at night. Any electronic devices that produce bright light in the dead of night, can disrupt your sleep.
Electronic light largely impacts your circadian rhythm or your natural wake-sleep cycle. Because of our circadian rhythms, as the sun goes down and the darkness of night creeps up, our bodies naturally produce melatonin, a hormone that makes us tired and ready for sleep2.
However, electronic light can prevent your body from producing melatonin. Too much exposure to electronic light late at night can essentially trick your body into thinking it should be awake as if its daytime when really you should be becoming drowsier for imminent sleep. Even the tiniest electronic lights can make a big difference3.
Every electronic device you can think of that might keep you awakeAlthough every bedroom is different, your bedroom most likely contains half a dozen of these devices at least that can really impact your sleep.
Potentially the most harmful devices for your sleep
These devices are the ones that are often the most stimulating because they emit electronic light for one, but also because they also keep the mind active when it really should be winding down for sleep.
- Cell phones
Other light-producing electronic devices
These devices don’t produce a ton of light, but they often still produce a tiny amount of light to signal that they are on and plugged in. This little bit of light, although seemingly insignificant during the day can be quite prominent in a pitch-black room.
- Cable box
- Desk lamp
- Air conditioning unit
- Alarm clock
- Smoke detector
- Essential oil diffuser
- Night light
- Overhead lights
- Gaming console
- Laptop charger (or any other type of charger)
- Common bedroom appliances such as air conditioner units, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, air purifiers, ect..
Ways to prevent electronic light from keeping you awake
Unfortunately, there are often dozens of electronic devices commonly found in the bedroom that can keep you awake. However, there are a few quick fixes and lifestyle changes that you can make to prevent them from hurting your sleep.
Avoid using electronics at least 30 minutes before sleep
It might be hard to avoid every electronic device. However, phones, computers, and TVs should most certainly be shut off long before you go to bed given that these devices are the most stimulating. Giving your mind some time to slow down can drastically help you get to sleep faster and sleep more soundly.
Bright overhead light also should be shut off long before you pack it in. Although they don’t arouse you the way video games or watching TV does, an illuminating fluorescent light can keep you from winding down all the same.
Light blocking strips
Shutting off your super engaging electronics well before you go to bed will certainly help. However, there likely are still dozens of LED lights that various appliances and chargers emit that could be blocked out as well to get better sleep.
To block the light from these devices, you can easily just place a little bit of electric tape over these LED lights. For instance, air conditioning units are well known to have extremely bright LED lights that can even light up a whole corner of a room. By placing just a patch of tape over the LED lights, you completely block off the light they produce.
Alternatively, there are light-blocking LED covers that essentially do the same thing as electric tape. The difference is that they may look just a bit more aesthetically pleasing.
Although you might not realize it, when every little LED light in your room is blocked off, it makes a world of difference how pitch black your room will become.
Remove electronics you don’t need
By far the simplest solution to preventing light from electronics from disrupting your sleep is by removing those electronic devices entirely. If there are electronic devices in your room that are creating disruptive light, simply take them out of your room. Problem solved!
Avoiding damaging effects of blue light (if you must use electronics before bed)
Although avoiding all electronics at least 30 minutes before bed is ideal for getting the best quality sleep, sometimes you just need to use electronics anyway. However, there are a few things you can do to lessen the negative effects by reducing your exposure to blue light which is the type of stimulating light commonly found in electronics that can be disruptive to sleep.
Blue-light-free light bulbs
Blue-light-free light bulbs are light bulbs that look like any other but don’t emit light from the blue-green spectrum. Because blue light is supposedly the most damaging type of light to your melatonin production and natural sleep cycle, exposing yourself instead to light from other parts of the visible light spectrum can be much better before going to bed. These light bulbs commonly produce amber or yellow-hued light instead of more artificial-looking white light.
In turn, when reading for 20 minutes before bed or brushing your teeth in the mirror right before bed, using a blue-light-free light bulb in these instances might be the way to go.
Blue light glasses
Blue light glasses are super helpful if you absolutely need to stare at a screen right before you go to bed like when writing a last-minute email for instance. The idea behind blue light glasses is that these glasses reduce your exposure to stimulating blue light. The lenses are claimed to be designed to absorb or block blue light so that it doesn’t even reach your eyes.
Even though it is never a good idea to really look at a screen soon before bed since screens keep your mind alert, you can at least reduce the amount of melatonin-inhibiting blue light that gets to you.
Although the LED from your alarm clock, AC unit or cable box alone might not seem to emit much light, when a dozen or so of these electronics are together in a dark bedroom, you might realize that your bedroom might not be as dark as you thought. You might be amazed at what a difference covering up these LED lights can make.
However, if your goal is to create total darkness in your bedroom for better sleep, then blocking out these electronic lights might just be one of the necessary steps to achieving a pitch-black room. In fact, blocking out the sunlight or any street light from outside your window might be your next objective.
For a more thorough guide on how to completely blackout your bedroom click here!
- “Why Electronics May Stimulate You Before Bed.” www.sleepfoundation.org, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/why-electronics-may-stimulate-you-bed
- “Circadian Rhythms.” www.nigms.nih.gov, https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/pages/factsheet_circadianrhythms.aspx
- “Power for Better Sleep.” www.webmd.com, https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/power-down-better-sleep#1