Effects of smartphone use with and without blue light at night in healthy adults: A randomized, double-blind, cross-over, placebo-controlled comparison

J Psychiatr Res. 2017 Apr:87:61-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2016.12.010. Epub 2016 Dec 12.


Smartphones deliver light to users through Light Emitting Diode (LED) displays. Blue light is the most potent wavelength for sleep and mood. This study investigated the immediate effects of smartphone blue light LED on humans at night. We investigated changes in serum melatonin levels, cortisol levels, body temperature, and psychiatric measures with a randomized, double-blind, cross-over, placebo-controlled design of two 3-day admissions. Each subject played smartphone games with either conventional LED or suppressed blue light from 7:30 to 10:00PM (150 min). Then, they were readmitted and conducted the same procedure with the other type of smartphone. Serum melatonin levels were measured in 60-min intervals before, during and after use of the smartphones. Serum cortisol levels and body temperature were monitored every 120 min. The Profile of Mood States (POMS), Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS), and auditory and visual Continuous Performance Tests (CPTs) were administered. Among the 22 participants who were each admitted twice, use of blue light smartphones was associated with significantly decreased sleepiness (Cohen's d = 0.49, Z = 43.50, p = 0.04) and confusion-bewilderment (Cohen's d = 0.53, Z = 39.00, p = 0.02), and increased commission error (Cohen's d = -0.59, t = -2.64, p = 0.02). Also, users of blue light smartphones experienced a longer time to reach dim light melatonin onset 50% (2.94 vs. 2.70 h) and had increases in body temperature, serum melatonin levels, and cortisol levels, although these changes were not statistically significant. Use of blue light LED smartphones at night may negatively influence sleep and commission errors, while it may not be enough to lead to significant changes in serum melatonin and cortisol levels.

Keywords: Blue light; Body temperature; Cortisol; Melatonin; Smartphone.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Temperature / radiation effects
  • Circadian Rhythm / radiation effects*
  • Color
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Light*
  • Male
  • Melatonin / blood
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sleep / radiation effects*
  • Smartphone*
  • Young Adult


  • Melatonin
  • Hydrocortisone