16 Nov 2015

Phones need 'bed mode' to protect sleep

1:27 pm on 16 November 2015

Smartphones, tablets and e-readers should have an automatic "bedtime mode" that stops them disrupting people's sleep, says a leading doctor.

Man in bed with smartphone - blue light

Photo: 123rf.com

Professor Paul Gringras, from Evelina Children's Hospital in London, argues the setting should filter out the blue light that delays the body clock and keeps people awake later into the evening.

The doctor said every new model was "bluer and brighter".

He said manufacturers needed to show more "responsibility".

As it gets darker in the evening, the body starts to produce the sleep hormone melatonin - which helps people nod off.

Certain wavelengths of light, those at the blue-green end of the spectrum, can disrupt the system.

Professor Gringras was part of a study, published in Frontiers in Public Health, analysing the light emitted by devices.

It concluded there was a clear trend for new devices to be bigger, brighter, have higher levels of contrast and emit more blue light.

"That is great for use in the day, but awful for use at night," the professor of children's sleep medicine said.

"There is converging data to say if you are in front of one of these devices at night-time it could prevent you falling asleep by an extra hour."

Sleeping man in bed with smartphone

Photo: 123rf.com

He said some sleep-aware apps had already been designed to reduce blue-green light emissions.

A bedtime mode could automatically filter out the blue as software such as f.lux already does.

He said there needed to be "more responsibility from manufacturers" and the "key is to automate it".

"It's not good enough to say do less and accept this is the world we live in, they're fun devices but we do need some protection on what they do at night-time," Professor Gringras added.


Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs