How to get full nights of high-quality sleep? How to make sleeping A Priority? In every sense of the word, getting enough sleep is an effective way of enhancing a broad array of work outcomes, including work engagement, ethical behavior, spotting good ideas, and leadership.
But how do we implement this behavior change? We all may be facing issues over which we do not have any control, like family responsibilities, medical conditions, and other jobs.
The Melatonin & Blue Light Connection
Melatonin is a biochemical that enhances the propensity for sleep and tends to rise in the evening before bedtime. Exposure to light suppresses the production of melatonin, making it more difficult to fall asleep. But not all light has the same effect — and blue light has the strongest effect.
So, filtering out blue light eliminates much of the suppressing effect of light on melatonin production, allowing the evening increase in melatonin to occur and thereby enabling the process of falling asleep.
This shows that wearing glasses that filter out blue light can help people sleep better. Blue-light filtering glasses function on improving sleep and work productivity. Researchers from Indiana University have discovered that wearing blue-light glasses with filters in their lenses can block or absorb these blue-light emissions. This certainly provides a better sleep quality.
What France declared before has indeed proven to be true by the researchers. In 2019, The French government agency for food, environmental and occupational health & safety (ANSES) confirmed “the toxicity of blue light on the retina and … the biological rhythm and sleep disruption associated with exposure to blue light in the evening or at night, particularly via screens and especially for children.” The agency even evoked an “increase in the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).”
In this study, the researchers examined the effect of wearing blue light filtering glasses on work outcomes. In a set of two studies of employees working in Brazil, they examined a broad set of work outcomes, including work engagement, helping behavior, negative work behaviors (such as mistreating others as work), and task performance.
The first study examined 63 managers, and the second study examined 67 customer service representatives. Both studies used the same research design: The employees spent one week wearing blue light filtering glasses for two hours before bedtime each night for a week.
The same employees also spent one-week wearing regular glasses for two hours before bedtime each night. The regular glasses had the same frames, but the lenses did not filter out blue light.
Participants had no reason to believe that there would be differential effects of the two sets of glasses on sleep or performance, or in which direction such an effect would occur. The researchers randomly determined whether any given participant spent the first week using the blue light filtering glasses or regular glasses.
The results were remarkably consistent across the two studies. Compared to the week in which people wore the sham glasses, in the week in which people wore the blue-light-filtering glasses participants reported sleeping more (5% longer in the managers’ study, and 6% longer in the customer service representative study) and getting higher quality sleep (14% better in the managers’ study, and 11% better in the customer service representative study).
Sleep quantity and quality both had beneficial effects on all four work outcomes. Compared to the week in which participants wore the sham glasses, in the week in which people wore the blue light filtering glasses, participants reported higher work engagement (8.51% higher in the managers study and 8.25% higher in the customer service representative study), more helping behavior (17.29% and 17.82% more in each study, respectively), and fewer negative work behaviors (11.78% and 11.76% fewer, respectively).
In the manager study, participants reported their performance as 7.11% higher when wearing blue light filtering glasses compared to when wearing the sham glasses. But the task performance results are most compelling for the customer service representative study.
In the customer service representative study, customer evaluations for each employee were averaged across the workday. Compared to when the customer service employees wore sham glasses, wearing the blue-light-filtering glasses led to an increase of 9% in customer service ratings.
What’s most impressive about these results is the implied return on investment. It’s difficult to quantify the value of an employee who is 8% more engaged, 17% higher in helping behavior, 12% lower in negative work behavior, and 8% higher in task performance.
In the study of customer service employees, for example, the measure of task performance was customer ratings of their satisfaction with the service, which is an especially critical outcome.
In contrast to these highly valuable outcomes, these particular glasses currently retail for $69.00, and there may be other equivalently effective brands of glasses that can lead to similar outcomes.
In ligth of sleep science advancing more and more, there will likely be more avenues to apply sleep health interventions that result in beneficial work outcomes. The blue light filtering glasses are an appealing initial step because they are easy to implement, noninvasive, and effective.
The global market for blue-light-filtering glasses is booming and could be worth up to US$38 million by the end of 2026 compared to US$22 million today.