You might not know this, but your smartphone emits a bright blue light which allows you to read what’s on the screen even during the brightest points of the day. But the light doesn’t turn off or adjust according to the hour of the day; it’s continually emitted, not only by our smartphones, but by our laptops, televisions, and other devices as well. The problem is that this light, which mimics the brightness of the sun, confuses your brain into thinking it’s daytime, even during the dead of night. This in turn stops your brain from releasing melatonin, the hormone which induces sleep, and prevents you from falling asleep. This is why experts recommend to turn off all screens at least two hours before bed.
Melatonin is released by a tiny organ in your brain called the pineal gland a couple of hours prior to sleep. The science of why the blue light emitted by mobile devices keeps people awake has led to the discovery of a photoreceptor called Melanopsin. Though we’ve long been familiar with the various cones and rods that construct our vision, Melanopsin was discovered recently in retinal ganglion cells, which are sensitive to blue light. Since then, experimental research has found that the average person using mobile devices before bed may have difficulty falling and/or staying asleep.
The impact of blue light is even more significant for teenagers, who are more vulnerable to the effects of light than adults. This is because circadian rhythm naturally shifts during adolescence, causing teenagers to feel more awake late into the night. Starting up a video game or television show just before bedtime could be enough to push sleepiness away for another hour or two, making early mornings particularly difficult.
Blue Light Isn’t The Only Concern
Dr. Martin Blank from the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics at Colombia University has joined a group of scientists from around the world who are making an international appeal to the United Nations regarding the dangers associated with various electromagnetic emitting devices, like cellphones and WiFi.