Bryan E. Robinson Ph.D.

The Right Mindset

Sleep

Research Finds a Solution for Computer-Screen Glow

A simple eye device improves sleep, decision-making, and performance.

Posted Nov 04, 2020

Photo by Simeon Frank on Unsplash
New research shows blue-light glasses improve sleep and performance.
Source: Photo by Simeon Frank on Unsplash

Odds are you’re part of the whopping 52% of Americans who say work stress interferes with sleep. And if you’re not getting enough shuteye, that can spell trouble. A long-term sleep study shows that people who sleep less than six hours at night have a decline in brain function equivalent to aging four to seven years. When you don’t doze enough, sleep deprivation lowers your resistance to stress and harms your brain.

Research shows that lack of sleep interferes with memory and learning. Your brain moves slower. You’re more forgetful. Your attention is short-circuited, and you’re grumpier. Plus, you’re more likely to nod off at your desk. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that these situations derail career success. Studies also show that if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re at greater risk of heart attack or stroke and your risk of death from heart disease more than doubles. Lack of sleep is linked to depression, impaired immune system function, weight gain, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.

Screen Glow and Blue-Light Glasses

A National Sleep Foundation study showed that the glow from electronic devices suppresses melatonin and interferes with falling and staying asleep. A good night's sleep not only benefits workers; it also helps an employer’s bottom line. During the pandemic, a lot has been written about Zoom exhaustion. As remote working has become more commonplace, the amount of screen time for many people working and learning from home as well as binge-watching TV has sharply increased. New research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that wearing blue-light glasses just before sleep can lead to a better night's sleep and better career decision-making, and contribute to a better day's work productivity.

Most of the technology we commonly use—such as computer screens, smartphones and tablets—emits blue light, which past research has found can disrupt sleep. People have become more dependent on these devices, especially as we navigate remote work and school during the coronavirus pandemic. The media have recently reported on the benefits of blue-light glasses for those spending a lot of time in front of a computer screen. This new research extends understanding of the circadian rhythm, a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours.

Research led by Cristiano Guarana at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business collected data from 63 company managers and 67 call center representatives at Brazil-based offices for a U.S. multinational financial firm and measured task performance from clients. Participants were randomly chosen to test glasses that filtered blue light or placebo glasses. "Employees are often required to work early mornings, which may lead to a misalignment between their internal clock and the externally controlled work time," the researchers said, adding that their analyses showed a general pattern that blue-light filtration can have a cumulative effect on job performance, at least in the short term.

According to Guarana, "We found that wearing blue-light-filtering glasses is an effective intervention to improve sleep, work engagement, task performance and organizational behavior, and reduced counterproductive work behavior." The advantages of blue-light-filtering glasses were stronger for “night owls” than morning people because they encounter greater misalignments between their internal clock and the externally controlled work time.

"Blue-light exposure should also be of concern to organizations," Guarana said. "The ubiquity of the phenomenon suggests that control of blue-light exposure may be a viable first step for organizations to protect the circadian cycles of their employees from disruption."

References

Guarana, C. L., et al. (2020). The effects of blue-light filtration on sleep and work outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology. DOI: 10.1037/ap10000806

Indiana University. (2020, October 15). Blue-light glasses improve sleep and workday productivity, study finds. ScienceDaily.  www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201015003444.htm