I used to consider my ability to sleep one of my greatest talents. I could sleep like a corpse. That is, until I became pregnant with my daughter. Even in the first trimester, I would wake up sporadically for no apparent reason; now in the third trimester the baby is really breaking me in for sleepless nights.
And at 2:30, 3, or 4 o’clock in the morning, it doesn’t make much sense for me to get any vacuuming done, so my natural impulse is to reach for my Android. In fact, I often want to play games, look at Facebook, or Google subjects I didn’t get a chance to during the day, too, right before I go to sleep.
Even books on my Kindle account are now ready on my Android phone, as it seemed the cheapest and most suitable replacement after my husband stepped on my actual Kindle device. As you undoubtedly know, you can do a lot on Android devices, but study after study shows that using an Android before bed can have harmful effects on your health.
How Smartphones Can Affect Your Sleep
You might have noticed that staring at your screen for a long time, especially after your eyes have already been subjected to computers all day, can cause even more eye strain and irritation. But staring at that screen may cause an even wider array of damage to more than just your eyes.
In a study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the effects of reading a physical printed book were compared against a light-emitting device. The blue-wavelength light produced by back-lit electronic devices was deemed to negatively impact the body’s natural circadian rhythm, melatonin levels, and overall health of the study’s participants. This light makes us more alert at a time when we need to become drowsy, and drowsier the next day when we need to be alert.
Sleep is just as essential to your health as nutrition and exercise, according to Kris Gunnars, of Authority Nutrition. Melatonin suppression has been linked to several types of cancer, per Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
One study from 2012 from the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute estimates that two hours of this light can decrease melatonin levels by approximately 22%. And this disruption of our sleep cycle may cause more undesirable physical effects—such as obesity and diabetes—and even mental health problems like depression and other mood conditions.
Handpicked Related Article: 10 Dangerous Smartphone Health Risks and Myths
Solution 1: Twilight
One obvious remedy to this problem is to avoid all blue light-emitting devices before bed. This means you could avoid using not only your Android smartphone, but also your TV, tablet, laptop, desktop, etc.
But when your Android itself wears so many hats – doubling as your alarm clock, calculator, entertainment system, communication resource, calendar, and more – this is quite difficult to do. If total avoidance isn’t practical, there are still some apps that can help you get a better night’s sleep even if you use your Android before bed, like Twilight.
Twilight, and similar apps, overlay a red filter on your Android’s screen. Be prepared to notice a red hue on your display, meant to counteract the blue light causing the problem. It does take into account what time of day it is, so your screen should appear normally during daylight hours. You will probably notice a decrease in eye strain due to glare, but you also might see a difference in contrast and shading, which could get a little annoying.
Solution 2: Night Shift: Blue Light Filter
Night Shift is another app that was designed to filter the blue light. It also uses a separate filter for day and night, and makes it easy to turn the filter off and on via the notification bar. The night-time filter adjusts the screen’s temperature to be a warmer hue. This app won’t bother you with ads or notifications, nor will it ask for permissions.
Download: Night Shift: Blue Light Filter
You might be noticing a trend in how these apps function, but optometrists do agree that filtering does reduce the effect of blue light. (Gary Heiting, OD) Still, not all apps based on the same premise are equal, and several users have reported that Night Shift is “glitchy.”
If you don’t want to install any app on your phone, you can also reduce the blue light effect by using devices with smaller screens, using amber-lensed goggles or glasses, or simply turning down the brightness of your screen. Turning down screen brightness may also prolong your Android’s battery life.
Solution 3: F.lux (Preview, Root Only)
This app is pretty useless if your Android is not rooted. It has been reported that the app does not always function properly on Samsung phones. Like the others, F.lux adjusts the display according to the time of day, but many users prefer this app to the others because it works consistently well to calibrate and adapt screen color and brightness.
Download: F.lux (Preview, Root Only)
That is still contingent on you having the right operating system (most Lollipop and Marshmallow builds are compatible) and the right device—but there is a desktop version as well.
Assuming your device meets these conditions, F.lux is pretty low-effect and low-maintenance. It automatically responds to daylight based on your time zone. This can be a downside if you don’t like a filter that will turn off by itself, but it can also be turned on manually. It is also a beta or preview version, as far as betas go it works quite nicely. Odds are that it will only improve once the official version for Android is released.
Solution 4: Screen Filter
Here’s an app that doesn’t remove any colors or try to mitigate their effects by placing an orange or red filter over them. Instead, it simply dims the screen. You might be thinking that your Android comes with a built-in brightness setting, but Screen Filter does take that to a different level.
Download: Screen Filter
It also provides widgets for more convenient access to these settings. And it’s another way you can get a better night’s sleep even if you use your Android right before bed.
Screen Filter also works with a Tasker plug-in so that you can automatically control brightness settings according to location or time. If you want it all—the ability to decrease screen brightness and filter the color of your display—you might want to check out an app like Darker (Screen Filter).
Download: Darker (Screen Filter)
And if you really want a powerful app to handle your screen’s brightness and you are willing to pay for it, there’s an app called Lux Auto Brightness. Lux Auto Brightness allows you to select from four automatic modes or you can opt to adjust brightness manually, and the app can be “taught” your preferences.
Download: Lux Auto Brightness
Solution 5: Bluelight Filter for Eye Care
If the red or orange hue you get on apps like Twilight just seems strange, apps like Bluelight Filter for Eye Care manage to filter blue light but keep things feeling more natural. And it comes with seven color options to better suit your tastes. You can also adjust the filter’s opacity if it seems too heavy or too light. It’s easy to turn on and off, adjust settings in different apps, and it can be hidden in the status bar.
Download: Bluelight Filter for Eye Care
Automatic launch of the filter at startup is an option, as well as filtering of the navigation bar itself (you do need to check this box when the app first starts). There are a few caveats: you will have to purchase the full version if you don’t want to deal with ads, and your screenshots will be affected by the filter unless you turn it off beforehand.
This app may not be compatible with all other apps, and it is recommended that you shut off the filter before you attempt any installation from a third-party app source. On certain devices, in different viewing modes, and when using some apps, it has been reported that the filter sometimes doesn’t cover all of the screen.
Other things you can do to improve your sleep at night are to get more exposure to bright light during the day, cut down on the caffeine later in the day, and establishing a consistent sleep routine. If you can manage to read a paper book while you plug your phone in to let it charge, or perhaps do some relaxing breathing exercises before bed. It is tough to put down your Android, but even a little time without it can help you get a better sleep. Remember that sleep can be healing.
Do you notice a difference when you use some of this advice or some of these apps? Let us know about any problems you experience or if you have your own tips for getting a better night’s sleep even when you use your Android right before bed. We hope that you can finally get a restful night’s sleep.