Blue Light Menace

I don’t think I’ll ever be truly able to escape the clutches of my smartphone. Even after divesting myself of social media and games, there’s still a huge chunk of my day-to-day activities that’s tied to the system, not counting the actual phone calls and text messages. For one thing, I do my daily expense recording on my phone. For another, that’s also where I do my language learning — currently French and Mandarin — especially handy to have during the down times. And finally, my podcasts and audiobooks. I tried switching to a dumb phone but it didn’t take.

Still, I have made some changes with my relationship. I don’t keep my phone by my bedside anymore. Before I turn in, I leave it in the living room to charge, right beside my tablet. Now it’s no longer the last thing I see at night nor the first thing I see in the morning.

The benefits were readily apparent. I’m able to sleep quickly at night, and soundly, too. When I wake up in the morning, I am more reflective and calm. There’s that feeling of peace when you’re all alone with your thoughts, nothing nagging and persisting for your attention.

There’s actually physiological reasons for this perceived improvement. Scientists have found a link between health and constant exposure to blue light — light whose wavelengths are emitted from LED screens such as our cellphones and tablets. Light in the blue spectrum disrupts melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness in humans and animals. This disruption in melatonin causes insomnia and mood changes. It may also be linked to other problems like migraines, diabetes, lupus, and cancer.

There are plenty of stop-gap solutions to this blue light problem. There are apps that purport to reduce the blue light output of your cellphone screens at night (yes, I’ve tried them, then uninstalled them.) There are also special goggles and glasses. But these are just silly workarounds to what is ultimately a simple problem with a simple solution: put your phone away.