Researchers find that blue light exposure should be of concern to organizations, which may be able to improve employee performance by minimizing their exposure.
As many people have increased their time using computers, cell phones, and TVs during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, researchers have found that wearing blue light glasses just before sleeping can improve sleep and contribute to better workday productivity.
Earlier research has found that many commonly used devices emit blue light, including computer screens, smartphones, and tablets. This light can disrupt sleep, thus reducing work engagement, performance, and organizational behaviors the next day. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in even more dependence on these devices, as students take classes remotely and employees work from home.
According to the investigators, researchers have increasingly reported on the benefits of blue light glasses for those spending a lot of time in front of computer screens. The new study extends understanding of the circadian rhythm, a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours.
“We found that wearing blue light-filtering glasses is an effective intervention to improve sleep, work engagement, task performance, and organizational citizenship behavior, and reduced counterproductive work behavior,” said Cristiano L. Guarana, PhD, in a press release. “Wearing blue light-filtering glasses creates a form of physiologic darkness, thus improving both sleep quantity and quality.”
Across 2 studies, investigators collected data from 63 company managers and 67 call center representatives measuring task performance. Participants were randomly chosen to test either blue light or placebo glasses. The researchers noted that employees who often work early mornings may have a misaligned internal clock compared with their work times. In these participants, the investigators found that blue light filtration can have a cumulative effect on key performance variables.
“In general, the effects of wearing blue-light-filtering glasses were stronger for ‘night owls’ than for ‘morning larks,’” Guarna said. “Owls tend to have sleep periods later in the day, whereas larks tend to have sleep periods early in the day. Although most of us can benefit from reducing our exposure to blue light, owl employees seem to benefit more because they encounter greater misalignments between their internal clock and the externally controlled work time.”
The authors concluded that blue light exposure should also be of concern to organizations, which may be able to improve employee performance by minimizing their exposure. Because so many workers experience the phenomenon, the authors said limiting exposure may be a viable first step for organizations to protect the circadian cycles of their employees.
Research finds that blue-light glasses improve sleep and workday productivity [news release]. EurekAlert; October 15, 2020. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/iu-rft101420.php. Accessed November 9, 2020.