Is too much screen time making it hard for you to sleep? Do you experience eyestrain or headaches? You’re not alone. So to help out all those who are in the need for better sleep tips, I’ve found two simple ways to help me fall asleep in minutes instead of hours.

Are you one of those people who can go to bed and fall asleep within a few minutes of closing your eyes? Nope, me neither. I’ve always been the kind to stare at the ceiling for an hour, struggling to turn my brain off from the day’s activities and those to follow tomorrow. I’d toss and turn and continue the stare-off with the ceiling, and after about an hour, I’d eventually wind down into a deep doze and head off into slumberville.

Until recently, that is. Now I’m one of those wild speedy-to-sleep people I mentioned earlier. The ones who can say goodnight and be snoozing in a second. And it is heavenly; a dream come true – literally.

This year has been a massive year of change, distress and disappointment for many. But sleeping better (and faster) is one of the best things I’ve learned and come out the other side with. So, I thought I’d share the two tiny changes I made to my routine this year, so you too can say goodbye to counting the damn sheep and say hello to a whole lot more sleep.

Eyestrain and headaches? Can’t sleep? You’re probably spending too much time looking at blue-lit screens

Humans are exposed to more artificial blue light than ever before. Most of us stare at some form of a screen for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week – and that’s just for work! Now, since COVID-19 has shaken up the world and added the need to video-call friends, conduct work meetings online, and induced a whole new era of Netflix binging thanks to imposed lockdowns, we’re looking at screens for longer and more often than ever.

Don’t forget your little handheld friend who likely takes up another big chunk of your downtime; your phone’s blue light wearing down your strained eyes as you scroll the day’s latest updates after a long day on the laptop.

These personal electronic devices emit more blue light than any other colour. But blue light isn’t all bad for us, it’s everywhere, even the sun radiates natural blue light. But too much artificial blue light isn’t good for our eyes. And thanks to the modernising world, we’re now exposed to it constantly.

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Human eyes aren’t good at blocking blue light, and too much exposure can cause strained or irritated eyes and, in my case, recurring headaches – symptoms new to many in 2020, as we’ve spent more time at home and less time away from the screens.

But other than the eyestrain, too much artificial blue light can also disrupt your sleep. The blue light sends signals to your retinal cells that you’re in a light environment and slows down the secretion of melatonin. Since melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycle, when you look at your bright, blue-lit screen, your eyes are setting your brain and body to daytime alertness, not blissful, snoozy night time.

How blue-light filter glasses changed my sleep

So tip number one – put these babies on your Christmas list asap: blue-light filter glasses.

You’ve probably heard some people talking about these before. Do they actually work? Are they super yellow and ugly? The answers: yes, and no.

Quay_BlueLight_Glasses
Blue-light filter glasses from Quay

I already wear prescription glasses, but a few months ago when I went to get a new pair, the optometrist added blue-light filter lenses to them. I don’t wear my glasses all the time, mostly when I’m working on my laptop or reading a book, but now I have these added blue-light filter lenses, I’ve found myself also wearing them on weekends and after work, at times when I feel my eyes getting strained from the TV or my smartphone. And I have never slept better.

It’s crazy that a simple addition of a tint in the glass can make such a huge difference; it was a little mind-blowing for me actually. So if you ever questioned whether the rumours are true, I can confirm from my experience they are indeed – and you should get yourself a pair immediately!

The good news is, you don’t need prescription glasses to get your hands on some blue-light filtering, sleep-facilitating goods. There are a bunch of brands that now sell just blue-light filter glasses, without the parts that improve your vision. For anyone like me who wanted glasses as a child simply for the accessory factor, now is your moment. And while you’re at it, you’ll be reducing your digital eyestrain and getting a better night’s sleep too.

The yellow tint of my glasses is very minimal, most people don’t even notice. But you can check out the ranges of blue-light filter glasses at Baxter Blue and Quay (among many other brands) and see for yourself. Quay even have a virtual try-on option, so you can see how they’ll look on you before ordering.

For the people on my side of the vision spectrum, check out the blue-light filter offerings from Bailey Nelson and Specsavers, or any of your other favourite glasses stores, as they’ll likely have the option too.

Blue-light filtering glasses are one of those things you didn’t know you needed, but once you have them, you’ll never want to take them off.

Turn Night Shift on and sleep like a baby

The second revolutionary habit I picked up this year, which had a dramatic effect on decreasing the time it takes me to fall asleep, was using my iPhone’s Night Shift mode.

Created in the same line of thought as the yellow tint used to create blue-light filter glasses, the iPhone’s Night Shift mode changes the backlight of your smartphone screen from a blue tint to a yellow tint.

iphone night shift mode
The Samsung Galaxy has a similar feature called Blue Light Filter, and Pixel devices have the option for Night Light. But even if your phone doesn’t have a built-in feature to help dim the artificial blue-light, there are plenty of apps you can download to achieve the same effect.

I’m a sucker for a scroll on social media as I wind down my day before sleep; it’s a bad habit, I know. But this year I started using Night Shift on my phone and my sleep has never been better, or easier to fall into.

While the validity of claims, that night mode features on smartphones make any difference to sleep, have come into question in recent times as we learn more about technology, the effectiveness I’ve found from using Night Shift combined with my blue-light filter glasses has been paramount.

I setup my phone so it automatically turns Night Shift on a few hours before bed each night and turns off when I’m due to wake up in the morning. Now I no longer squint at a fluorescent screen which often brought on headaches right before trying to sleep, instead I present my eyes with a dull-yellow, dimly-lit screen, and say goodnight to blue light.