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The Blue Light Conundrum

Devices such as smart phones, tablets, televisions and computers are ubiquitous in modern-day life. Whatever we’re doing—working out, eating, going out to grab drinks with friends—our devices are either documenting it all or providing entertainment or news to pass the time.

Although using these devices can often be distracting, using them at night can actually be harmful, especially when it comes to impacting our sleep. Blue light—a high-energy, short-wavelength light that is emitted from our smart phones, tablets, and laptop screens—has been cited in numerous studies and news stories as being the cause of numerous sleep issues.

So, has this knowledge of blue light changed our sleep habits at all? We surveyed 2,000 Americans about their sleep habits as well as their screen habits before bed to find out whether or not this information has been used to change our behavior.

Here are a few interesting things that we found out from the data.

The Blue Light Conundrum

First, we found that many Americans are simply not catching enough Z’s at night: A staggering 64 percent of the respondents said that they were not getting enough sleep. This number doesn’t really seem surprising, however, with 12 percent of respondents indicating they had trouble falling asleep “very often,” 17 percent responding “often,” and 34 percent responding that they “occasionally” had trouble. Just 3 percent of our respondents said that after a night’s sleep they felt “very well-rested” and 17 percent said they felt “well-rested” versus a whopping 40 percent who said they felt “tired” when they woke up every day. And even though 67 percent of our respondents said they were concerned about their quality of sleep, just 41 percent said they had tried to change their sleeping habits in the previous six months.

When the respondents were asked what they’ve tried to help them sleep, the most popular answers were reading (50 percent), sexual activity (45 percent), music or white noise (36 percent), and a warm bath (35 percent). Less popular activities for helping sleep were herbal supplements (18 percent), over-the-counter medicine (16 percent), meditation (13 percent), recreational drugs (11 percent), prescription drugs (10 percent), and just 7 percent of respondents said they did yoga to help them get to sleep.

The Blue Light Conundrum

We found in our survey that even though 60 percent of respondents knew that blue light is emitted from screens and 66 percent believe that it negatively affects sleep, 66 percent of them continue to use their smartphones before bed, 54 percent use their computers or tablets before bed, and 52 percent say they still watch TV before bed.

Unsurprisingly, 63 percent of the respondents who use their smartphone, 59 percent of the respondents who use a computer or tablet every night before bed, and 64 percent of those who watch TV every single night before they go to sleep said they felt tired the next morning.

One of the most striking things we found in our data was that despite all the studies on blue light, almost 80 percent of respondents said they couldn’t tell the difference when they were exposed to blue light, and 76 percent of people keep their phone within reach when they sleep.

But despite the fact that many respondents said they couldn’t tell the difference when they were exposed to blue light, there were some indications that news stories and studies about the harmful effects of blue light were successful. A fairly big portion of our respondents—36 percent—said that they use apps/settings to the fight the effects of blue light, and 54 percent said they used those apps/settings nightly.