Can’t sleep? Blame the beaming bright glow of new technology

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Many appliances these days come with an indicator light, which some say makes it harder to sleep at night.


For thousands of years, the daily darkness of night naturally signaled to humans that it was time to go to sleep. This is an evolutionary principle hardwired into our brains – and it becomes evident to those who can’t sleep peacefully at night because of the annoying indicator light that is part of many household electronics.

Countless appliances and devices – from surge protectors and televisions to headphones and laptops – often have a bright light that turns on when plugged in but can only be turned off if the product is unplugged. It’s a pesky nuisance in the bedroom.

“Exposure to light at night is a completely unnatural and alien experience,” said Steven Lockley, a neuroscientist in the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, in author Paul Bogard’s 2013 book, “The End of Night,” which explores the effects of artificial light. light on society and health.

Not only are there more of these lights these days, but many are brighter than before. Some manufacturers claim that indicator lights can sometimes have a practical use. But what is clear is that come bedtime, people looking to get some sleep hate those hard-to-ignore spots of light that ruin the comforting darkness needed for sleep.

For Kyle Moschen, a 27-year-old public relations professional based in Seattle, the studio he lived in with his boyfriend almost looked like a starry sky, except it wasn’t as beautiful as Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting . , it was irritating.

Bright lights from many sources – from the oven, an automatic fan, the fire alarm, an air purifier and a wireless phone charger – made it difficult for Moschen to sleep at night.

His solution: Record these bad boys straight.

Courtesy of Kyle Moschen

Kyle Moschen puts tape on a device at his home.

“I was looking around and noticing more and more and I felt so confused, like why are there so many lights?” Moschen told CNN. “I was like this crazy guy who put these black strips of electrical tape on every little light.”

Amazon, among other retailers, offers several different sizes and shapes of blackout or light-dimming stickers and sheets.

The solution looked a little different for Jonathan King, a financial professional based in New York.

“I plug in my Logitech headphones and there’s a little bit of blue light, but I have a really hard time sleeping with the light on, so I either have to wear a face mask or what I usually end up doing is “Is putting a shirt over the headphones so I don’t see them,” King told CNN in an email.

The practical and aesthetic functions of indicator lights

To put it simply, an indicator light simply reflects the status of a device, and this varies from product to product. For example, an indicator light may indicate that a device is charging or plugged in and working properly. For Bluetooth devices, they are required when pairing with a phone.

These light indicators are often LED lights. LED lighting is an energy-efficient option for manufacturing indicator lights. The lamp has a long lifespan and does not generate excessive heat, important qualities for technology used every day.

Blue LED light – a common but particularly sleep-disrupting indicator color – was such an industry breakthrough that the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to physicists Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura for its creation.

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Blue standby light from the on/off switch.

Blue LED was introduced for commercial use in the 1990s. Amid a growing technology industry, blue LED offered an innovative new color that made consumer electronics look cutting-edge.

“Sometimes these lights are turned on purely for aesthetic appeal, contributing to the design, appeal and user experience of the gadget,” David Loftus, president and CEO of the Electronic Components Industry Association, told CNN .

However, many manufacturers do without it. “A lot of times some people don’t have it because it’s a very cheap device and the manufacturer chose not to spend a few cents to put an LED status light on it. Or the devices are just very simple and don’t need them,” Loftus said.

Manny Linhares Jr., senior director of product management at French electrical equipment maker Legrand, said indicator lights on Legrand products are essential for functional, aesthetic and safety reasons.

“As a manufacturer, adding an LED light costs something, so adding one just for the sake of adding one seems completely unnecessary. So in our case it is used purposefully to improve the user experience,” he said.

Linhares Jr. also said the lights can be useful as night lights.

“We’re aiming for subtle lights to help a guest know where these devices are when the lights are off in spaces where the occupant doesn’t know the room, like in hotels, you at least have that subtle light,” a he declared.

John Towfighi contributed to this story.

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