How do you spend your weekday evenings before hitting the sack? Maybe you’re a Queen Bee who parties every night until the wee late hours before crawling into bed. If that’s you, please share the secrets to your boundless energy. Unless your secret is cocaine. In that case, you can just keep your secrets.
Our Screen Addiction
However, if you’re like most working professionals, I imagine you spend a significant chunk of your evening staring at electronic screens. Whether it’s logging on remotely to finish that report your boss needs “asap” (my least favorite word), scrolling your Instagram feed for Kylie Jenner selfies and grumpy cat memes, or illegally streaming Game of Thrones onto your computer, you probably don’t realize just how much time you spend staring at screens. I can’t say I’m any better. Except I don’t follow Kylie Jenner on Instagram. At least I have that going for me. But I do write blog posts, do online research for my blog, upload/edit photos, and skim Instagram in the hours before bed.
And our addiction to technology is taking a real toll on our sleep. Staring at screens at nighttime negatively affects our circadian rhythms because these screens emit a blueish light that mimics daylight. Not to get all Bill Nye on you, but for the sake of being a thorough blogger, I must take you on a scientific digression.
Light consists of electromagnetic particles that travel in waves, and those waves give off energy. The shorter the wavelength; the higher the energy. Blue light, one of the many lights in the visible light spectrum, has a very short wavelength, and thus emits a higher amount of energy. While blue light wavelengths are helpful during the daytime because they boost our attention, energy and mood, they are detrimental to our sleep and overall health after sundown. Compared to other lights on the visible light spectrum, blue light significantly suppresses production of melatonin, a chemical that helps us fall asleep. So when we stare at our digital devices, which are often powered by LED back-light technology that emits strong blue light waves, the blue lights trick our brains into thinking it's still daylight even if it's actually 10 p.m.
Studies show that nighttime exposure to blue lights from cell phones, tablets, and other devices puts us at greater risk of developing sleep disorders. Screen abusers take a longer time to fall asleep than old-fashioned bookworms, and the former get less REM sleep than the latter. Getting sufficient REM sleep is important because it’s the part of the sleep cycle during which the brain makes memories and integrates processes that are necessary for learning and high-level thinking. Unsurprisingly, exposure to screens before bed makes you less alert the next day, which means you’ll more likely to behave like a jackass in front of your boss, maim a pedestrian while you’re carelessly driving to work, or face plant into a Stop sign when you’re walking while texting. I have done at least two of those three things.
For some of the more virtuous folk, it might actually be possible to turn off all screens an hour or two before bed. Old-fashioned alternatives to screen time include curling up with a bottle of wine and a good book (an actual book, not a tablet), going for a nighttime stroll (ladiez, be safe out there!), or soothing your sexy body with a bubble bath complete with pumpkin-scented candles and a Kelly Clarkson playlist (because, let’s face it, you a basic B).
For many of us, however, it won’t be entirely realistic to avoid all electronic devices an hour before bed. So, does that mean we should just give up entirely and succumb to the tyranny of the blue lights?
Not so fast. Ladies and gents, I introduce to you the most fashionable solution to your problems: blue-light-blocking orange glasses. These orange-tinted glasses block certain wavelengths of light, including the blue lights emitted by digital screens, making them a potential solution to your nighttime woes.
One study found that adults who wore these trendy shades for three hours before bed had significantly better sleep than adults in the control group, and another study found that teenage boys who used electronic devices while wearing orange glasses every night for a week felt notably more relaxed and tired at bedtime than if they simply wore clear eyeglasses.
Full disclosure: my partner Max has been wearing orange glasses before bedtime for the past year or so, on an semi-consistent basis. I make fun of him every chance I get, but he insists that he falls asleep more quickly when he wears the orange glasses before bed. And it’s true. I often hear him breathing heavily (not snoring) five minutes after we’ve gotten into bed, while I spend what feels like hours trying to turn my brain off and force myself into sleep.
I was hesitant to try out these orange glasses, primarily because they are unabashedly hideous. But, for the sake of health and happiness, I decided to give them a try. After a thorough perusal of Amazon's inventory of orange glasses, I ordered this pair for $8.99. When I initially pulled my orange glasses out of the packaging, I noticed that Max was already wearing his glasses. My first thought was this is going to be such a cute selfie! That thought quickly disappeared though. When I looked in the mirror, I was horrified to find what I can only describe as an industrial metal worker staring back at me.
Pros and Cons of Wearing Orange Glasses
Which brings me to my pros and cons list for these orange glasses. Since I like to save the best for last, let’s begin with the drawbacks to wearing orange glasses for a few hours before bed.
- Wearing these glasses can be very disorienting, at least for the first several nights. It’s as if you’ve been in a coma for years and are finally opening your eyes for the first time. Except everything is a lot more yellow than you remember it. I found that it was difficult to complete ordinary tasks that even a baby could perform, like making a sandwich or replying to an email. According to Max, these feelings of helplessness do fade and eventually you become accustomed to life behind the orange goggles. I would give yourself a minimum of one week to get used to wearing these glasses before you call it quits.
- These glasses make everything look sallow and depressing. For someone whose hobbies include cooking and food photography, it was a pretty disconcerting experience. For instance, I whipped up some beautiful beet hummus one night this week, but instead of ending up with a bowl of vibrant pink hummus, all I saw was a mound of lumpy brown horse shit.
- To experience the full effect of improved sleep, I started wearing these glasses after sundown on the weeknights (on the weekends, I just put the glasses on when I came home from whatever super trendy event I was attending until the time I went to bed). That meant I was wearing the glasses for a full three hours. That's a long time. Ain't nobody got time for that.
- Wearing these glasses makes me want to sleep as much as a koala bear. By the time 10 p.m. rolls around, I am literally leaping into bed. There’s something about looking at everything in low-contrast orange light that makes you hate your eyes and want nothing more than to shut them tightly until the beautiful morning sunlight streams into your bedroom window. I know that this sounds like a con, but the glasses are serving their intended purpose after all. Just the act of putting on the glasses makes me want to fall asleep. At 7:30 pm.
- Donning these shades before bed has helped me fall asleep faster than usual. Oftentimes, I am still full of energy by the time I get into bed. Maybe it’s the sugar I’ve consumed that day, maybe it’s my infectiously positive spirit, we may never know. My pre-bedtime excitement jitters undoubtedly annoy Max, and he constantly wonders why his 28-year old girlfriend’s bedtime ritual is to hurl herself onto the bed while yelling “INCOMING!” I haven’t pulled any of those shenanigans all week because I’ve literally been falling asleep within seconds of crawling into bed.
- I measured my sleep using the Sleep Cycle app for several days this week, and in comparison to random nights earlier this year, it appears that my overall sleep quality was somewhat higher on nights I wore the orange glasses before bedtime. This week, my average sleep quality was 90%, compared to an average of 83% from the prior week. As a lifelong teacher's pet, it made me immensely happy that I received an A on my sleep homework. Of course, I wish it had been a proper A, or better an A+, but I'll settle for an A-.
In sum, my week of wearing blue-light-blocking orange glasses was a mixed bag. On the one hand, I hated the feeling of wearing the glasses. I was less productive at night because everything felt otherworldly. I certainty did not enjoy my hobbies very much, what with all the horse shit hummus. On the other hand, I did fall asleep much more quickly than usual. This effect, however, could have also been related to the sleep technique that I adopted during Week 1. As I mentioned in that post, journaling my worries and to-dos before bedtime has really helped me achieve a state of pre-bedtime calm, which, in turn, has enabled me to fall asleep with ease. So, there could be a case of dual causality. But I'm not a scientist, so don't expect any actual conclusions.
Ultimately, I would recommend wearing orange glasses for a few hours before bedtime if you fit the following criteria:
- You have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night.
- You spend a significant amount of your time before bed using digital screens, particularly up-close screens like cell phones, tablets, and laptops.
- It is not imperative that you have 100% accurate color vision at night time.
- You’re comfortable looking like an asshole.
Personally, I probably won't continue wearing these orange glasses, at least on a regular basis or for a full three hours, because I’m a very visual person and my night time hobbies more or less require that I not be colorblind. However, if I do find myself having considerable difficulty falling asleep after this week, I may have to resort to donning these stunna shades again.
Have you thought about wearing orange glasses before bedtime to improve your sleep? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
For next week, I'll be focusing on my morning wakeup instead of my pre-bedtime rituals. I'll be replacing my alarm clock with a Philips Wake-up Light, which is designed to wake you up in a natural way with a gradually increasing light.
Sweet dreams, my pets!