Smartphones are ubiquitous in modern life. They are an essential tool for communication, information storage and retrieval as well as entertainment. Many organisations supply smartphones, as well as similar technology (e.g. tablet PCs and laptops) to their employees in order improve productivity. There is no argument that this technology can expedite employee responses to time critical events and allow faster responses to internal and external customer enquiries. With their mobility, smartphone technology can allow employees to work regardless of the venue, or the availability of a desk. But does this technology come at a cost?
Smartphones are almost perfectly designed to disrupt sleep. They typically keep individuals mentally stimulated, encourage poor sleep hygiene and expose them to blue light emitted from their luminous screens. This blue light exposure is key. About 15 years ago researchers discovered a new photoreceptor in the eye, called Melanopsin. Many are familiar with the "rods and cones" that provide our visual capabilities, however melanopsin, which are sensitive to a narrow band of blue light in the 460-480nm range, have been discovered to have unique effect on sleep by suppressing melatonin production. Melatonin is a circadian hormone that induces sleepiness at night, assists with getting to sleep and obtaining deep, restorative sleep. A decrease in melatonin production at night typically creates sleep disturbances, but has also been linked with an increased risk for diabetes and obesity, as well as increased risk for more serious diseases such as breast cancer.