Dreaming in Blue Light

by Katherine Wright

photography courtesy of Pexels

Sleep might be the most universal topic of discussion on a college campus. “Tired” has become the typical response to “how are you?”, and naps have become common, addicting and reliable correctors for missing out on those necessary eight hours every night.

Sleep is a constant craving, marked by its necessity but defined by its inconsistency. However, deprivation is not the only danger to a good night’s sleep. Even with a solid eight hours, phone usage before bed can dramatically impact the quality of sleep.

“I find that when I use my phone before bed, it’s harder to fall asleep, and I wake up feeling tired in the morning,” said Haley Bice (CAS ’22).

Screens increase exposure to blue light, which can negatively impact the body at night by decreasing melatonin levels and impacting circadian rhythm, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Circadian rhythms contribute to sleep-wake cycles of the body and produce a sleep hormone called melatonin. Irregularity can mess with bodily functions such as digestion, body temperature and hormones, which can eventually lead to serious health problems including depression, diabetes and sleep disorders.

There are plenty of healthy bedtime routines that can help reduce dangerous exposure to blue light. Drinking tea, reading a book, writing daily journal entries or revamping your skin care routine will make you feel more relaxed at night and more energized in the morning.

“11:30 sharp is when I turn off my phone, but around 7:00 at night my phone switches to night time mode,” said Priya Viramgama (CAS ’21) “This helps make the light warmer colors to reduce blue light. I like to do face masks and make my lunch before bed, which is very stress relieving for me.”

Actually implementing such changes is often easier said than done. Realistically speaking, a lot of college students are texting, scrolling through Instagram or staring at a computer screen in the minutes leading up to falling asleep. It has become a mindless habit. But, breaking the unhealthy screen-filled routine does not have to be complicated or laborious.

The key idea to remember is limiting electronic use, especially at night. Rather than falling asleep with your phone next to you, try to put it away at least 30 minutes before you go to bed.

“Some nights, I will listen to a podcast but set my phone down, so I’m not looking at a screen,” said Nell Curtin (Wheelock ’22). “ I think on those nights I sleep better than if I’m watching Netflix before I fall asleep.”

At the end of the day, it’s just about making a conscious choice to put your phone away a little earlier than usual. 30 minutes is a short period of time. Use this break to do something more productive and screenless: read a book, prepare your breakfast, clean your room, paint your nails, experiment with watercolors or make a to-do list. Anything at all. You’ll wake up feeling healthier, more refreshed and more energized.