In the past, tech companies have been accused of being irresponsible as the devices they make emit huge amounts of blue-spectrum light, which affects the body’s ability to sleep.
Prof Paul Gringras, professor of sleep medicine from the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London, was one of the accusers. Two of the biggest names in the industry, Apple and Amazon, have recently announced that they plan to tackle this issue moving forward.
The reason electronic devices affect sleep is the blue light they emit. Our bodies prepare for sleep by releasing the hormone melatonin when it starts to get dark. The wavelengths at the end of the blue-green light spectrum can actually stop melatonin from being produced, making it harder to get to sleep.
Interestingly, prof Gringras’ work has found that each new generation of smartphone and tablet is getting bigger and brighter – emitting more blue light. Studies have shown that being exposed to this sort of light is not only making people take longer to get to sleep, it is making them have less deep sleep and therefore feeling more tired the following morning.
Speaking to the BBC, the professor said the following:
“I think the industry has deliberately avoided passing any comment or even acknowledging the evidence and research until very recently.
“I think the industry has been very worried about affecting sales and the use of their devices.”
Since prof Gringras’ work has been published, Apple has announced that the next iOS update will include a mode called ‘Night Shift’ that “may even help you get a good night’s sleep”. The mode will alter the colour of the display to get rid of the blue light in the evenings. It will do this using the clock and where you are in the world.
Other tech giant, Amazon, are also looking at ways to reduce blue light emissions. The company will be introducing “Blue Shade” to its Fire tablet range.
In response to these moves. prof Gringras said that although it’s late, it is “an incredibly welcome move”, adding:
“Of course blue light becomes insignificant when you’re setting an alarm at 02:00 to see what social media messages have popped up during the night. That’s a tricky problem and not in the grasp of the manufacturers.”