Study Suggests Night-Shift Mode Might Be Better In The Daytime

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Research Finds Why You May Want To Use Night-Shift Mode During The Day

Image by SUZANNE CLEMENTS / Stocksy

The information about blue light and its effects on the brain might seem despairing since exposure to blue light is nearly impossible to avoid. If you're taking the suggested precautions like amber glasses and switching on your iPhone night-shift mode, but still struggling with sleep, new research might suggest why.

A study published in Current Biology found that it might not be the color of the light, but the brightness, that interferes with sleep, and the night-shift mode might actually be more beneficial in the daytime.

What did the research find? 

When studying the impacts of different wavelength lights on mice, researchers found that those exposed to bright yellow lights had more difficulty falling asleep than mice exposed to dim blue lights. 

The study, conducted by the University of Manchester, examined the short-wavelength cones (called S cones) in the retina, which form our perception of color. When the S cones signaled blue colors, they did not affect the body clock as significantly because the color blue is more naturally associated with nighttime. 

Therefore, bright yellow lights might be more detrimental to sleep because they resemble daytime. Changing the wavelengths for a short period of time in the middle of the day can send mixed signals to our body clock and disrupt sleeping patterns. 

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So, why did we think blue light was bad? 

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Our body clocks are influenced by melanopsin, a protein in the retinas that detects brightness, not color. This means that even moderately bright lights can slow the release of melatonin (the hormone that controls our sleep and wake patterns). 

Melatonin is typically emitted gradually before bedtime and hits its peak in the middle of the night. When its release is delayed, falling asleep at a normal hour becomes challenging, and waking up feeling rested is even more difficult. 

Previous research found that melanopsin detected shorter wavelengths (like violets and blues) more visibly than long wavelengths like yellows, oranges, and reds. This means that yes, bright blue lights can disrupt sleeping patterns because they have higher energies than warm amber lights. But adjusting between the two wavelengths via night-switch mode has less of an impact than previously thought. 

"We argue that this is not the best approach," said lead author Tim Brown, Ph.D., in a news release. "The changes in color may oppose any benefits obtained from reducing the brightness signals." 

This new research proves that brightness, more than the color of the light rays, might be influencing sleep. One way to prevent the screen’s effects altogether is to replace your scrolling with these bedtime rituals.

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