By The Numbers
Let’s start by taking a look at the cold, hard facts – the statistics.
According to a 2011 study, nine out of ten Americans reported using some kind of technological device before bed. The majority, 60%, were using TVs, followed by cell phones at 39%, and then computers and laptops at 36%. That means that nearly as many people are spending time on their laptops before bed as they are on their cell phones. Single people are also more likely to use their laptops in bed than those who are married.
Another study found that exposure to blue light, such as that caused by laptop screens, at night damages the quality and duration of our sleep.
What is Blue Light?
Different sources of light have different color tints to them. Screens like the ones in our cell phones, TVs, computers, and laptops all emit something called blue light. But, contrary to popular belief, this kind of light isn’t limited to technology. The biggest producer of blue light is, in fact, the sun. The blue light that it emits is what makes us see the sky as blue.
So, why are professionals claiming that blue light is so harmful to us?
In short, they’re not. The problem is around our increased use of artificial blue light – especially in the hours before sleep. Blue light can actually be incredibly beneficial for us humans, as in the right amounts it can promote alertness and boost our mood. This is why this kind of light is used to help treat people who suffer from SAD.
It also helps us to regulate our sleeping patterns when we’re exposed to it at the right times during the day.
Using Your Laptop In Bed
It’s not just harm to yourself that you need to consider before using your laptop in bed, you also need to think about how it might affect the laptop itself. When laptops run, they produce heat that needs to be pushed out through the vents on the bottom of the laptop. When we use them in bed, resting them on a duvet or our mattress, this blocks the vents from working properly.
This could lead to your laptop overheating and engaging an automatic shutdown, or it could damage your bedding. Worst yet, if it gets too hot, it could even burn through your bedding onto your mattress. This is, of course, in very rare situations. But, the older your laptop, the more prone it is to overheating as it will have to work harder to run newer software.
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Blue Light and Your Sleep
Is Blue Light Bad For You?
You may have heard all sorts of horror stories about how harmful blue light can be, but it’s not all bad. Blue light is actually beneficial for us during the day as it can help boost our attention span, reaction time, and mood.
The problems start to roll in when the darkness comes. Our bodies are still hard-wired the way they were hundreds of years ago when the only real light source was the sun itself. This is called our circadian rhythm, or biological clock. This is what tells our bodies when to sleep, and when to be awake – and light plays a big part in that.
Rise of Technology
Now, with the increase of modern technology, our bodies are exposed to all kinds of light, usually at the wrong times of the day. Blue light at night confuses your biological clock as it tricks it into thinking it’s still daytime and makes it harder to fall asleep.
The Negative Effects of Blue Light
It may not be all bad, but there are still a number of negative effects from exposure to blue light. These include effects on our mind, body, and eyes.
Eye strain is probably one of the most talked-about issues linked with blue light exposure. In fact, 60% of adults report symptoms of digital eye strain within just minutes of using technology. A lot of this comes down to the sheer amount of time we spend in front of screens nowadays. Whether it’s at your desk at work, watching TV in the evening, or checking up on social media during your commute – we are using blue light-emitting screens a lot.
As blue light is the same as the light emitted by the sun, it tricks our bodies into thinking it’s still daytime. This becomes a real problem at night when we should be winding down to fall asleep. It’s why people who work nights struggle so much with sleep as well. Exposure to blue light in the hours before bed can seriously mess up your circadian rhythm, and your sleep pattern.
That’s not all though. Too much blight light exposure can also lead to physical symptoms like headaches thanks to the pressure it’s putting on your eyes. Did you know that when we use laptops and other blue-light screens, we sometimes forget to blink? This leads to dry eyes and eye fatigue – both of which are often precursors to headaches and migraines.
We get it, some nights you just can’t resist watching your favorite Netflix show, all snuggled up in bed. We all do it from time to time. But, it should be a limited activity. Try not to indulge every night, or your sleep quality will begin to deteriorate. Ideally, you shouldn’t be looking at any screens for at least an hour before you go to bed!
But, if you really can’t help yourself, here are some ways you can enjoy using your laptop in bed without as many harmful side effects.
Blue Light Filters
Whether you use blue-light filtering glasses or apply a blue-light filter to your laptop itself, this can really help to reduce the effect it will have on your sleep patterns. These filters have a yellow-ish tint and help to make the light you see a little warmer, and easier for your eyes to handle.
If you’re worried about damaging your mattress or your laptop, then investing in a laptop cushion is a great idea. These cushions allow you to use your laptop on any surface by providing a more solid base for it to stand on. This allows the air to flow freely and the vents to work properly.
Screen Time Apps
There are a number of apps out there now that help you to limit your screen time. You can set up the apps to your own specifications, reminding you to turn off your screen at a certain time, or after you’ve used it for a set period of time throughout the day. This is a great way to get some distance from your tech as well.