Blue Light and Sleep: What Nurses Need to Know

Beverly M. Hittle, PhD, RN; Imelda Wong, PhD


Am Nurs Journal. 2022;17(3) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Strategic interventions can improve alertness and sleep.

Healthy sleep holds as much significance as diet and exercise to optimal health and wellbeing. Poor or insufficient sleep has been associated with increased risk for motor vehicle accidents, work injuries, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression, and other mental health disorders. Many shift workers, including nurses, experience difficulty obtaining enough good sleep because they work nights or have early morning start times. In a meta-analysis by Zeng and colleagues, over half of nurses studied report that they experience poor sleep quality. According to Hittle and colleagues, on average, nurses report sleeping a little less than 6.5 hours per day, less than the 7 to 9 hours of sleep recommended daily. Although a 30-minute difference may not seem like much, over time it can add up, jeopardizing health and safety.

Our bodies are biologically designed to be awake during daylight hours and asleep when it's dark. Sunlight (a blue light source), acts as an external signal to the body that it should be awake. Staying alert when it's dark outside or obtaining sufficient quality and quantity of sleep during the day can be challenging. Exposure to blue light sources (such as bright indoor lighting and electronics) before bedtime can exacerbate sleep problems.