Blocking nocturnal blue light for insomnia: A randomized controlled trial

The use of light-emitting electronic devices before bedtime may contribute to or exacerbate sleep problems. Exposure to blue-wavelength light in particular from these devices may affect sleep by suppressing melatonin and causing neurophysiologic arousal. We aimed to determine if wearing amber-tinted blue light-blocking lenses before bedtime improves sleep in individuals with insomnia. Fourteen individuals (n = 8 females; age ± SD 46.6 ± 11.5 y) with insomnia symptoms wore blue light-blocking amber lenses or clear placebo lenses in lightweight wraparound frames for 2 h immediately preceding bedtime for 7 consecutive nights in a randomized crossover trial (4-wk washout). Ambulatory sleep measures included the Pittsburgh Insomnia Rating Scale (PIRS) completed at the end of each intervention period, and daily post-sleep questionnaire and wrist-actigraphy. PIRS total scores, and Quality of Life, Distress, and Sleep Parameter subscales, were improved in amber vs. clear lenses condition (p-values <0.05). Reported wake-time was significantly delayed, and mean subjective total sleep time (TST), overall quality, and soundness of sleep were significantly higher (p-values <0.05) in amber vs. clear lenses condition over the 7-d intervention period. Actigraphic measures of TST only were significantly higher in amber vs. clear lenses condition (p = 0.035). Wearing amber vs. clear lenses for 2-h preceding bedtime for 1 week improved sleep in individuals with insomnia symptoms. These findings have health relevance given the broad use of light-emitting devices before bedtime and prevalence of insomnia. Amber lenses represent a safe, affordable, and easily implemented therapeutic intervention for insomnia symptoms.
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