This boomer has blues in the night

Let’s face a hard truth: the older we baby boomers get, the harder it is to get a good night’s sleep. Most of us anyway. And now, as Howard Tullman, CEO of Chicago-based 1871, an incubator for 500 digital startups, writes from Chicago, it has only been aggravated by the pandemic. But he has found what feels like a solution. Or at least, an improvement.

Anyone who tells you that they slept a lot better during the last 16 pandemic months is simply lying. Or ingesting a lot of drugs. Folks who are honest would admit that it’s been a rocky road although everyone seems to have their own explanation as to just why it’s been so tough to get a good night’s sleep. Of course, some of us don’t generally believe in sleep to begin with. “If you want your dreams to come true, don’t sleep” read a sign at our office.

Putting aside all of the arguments relating to the Trump-induced anxiety and general shit-stirring throughout the first year of confinement, and rejecting all the easy answers like more daytime naps, more caffeine, and more sugary snacks, I’ve concluded— after a few weeks of careful research— that there’s a simpler answer. One which is literally right in front of our faces.

Blame the bad blue light from our screens for snatching away our sleep. And it’s gotten even worse during the pandemic because the whole world has been spending far more time staring at their computers, TVs, and phones. Honestly, what else is there to do at night but stare at some screen when you can’t leave home?

Even now that we’re finally being freed to go outside, you certainly can’t leave home without your phone. I’m convinced, as is Ariana Huffington who puts her phone to bed each night, that you can take a few simple steps— especially after dinner and before bedtime— to materially increase your chances of getting some solid, uninterrupted rest.

Because I’m totally a gadget guy, I decided to test out some of the blue light-blocking glasses that have been around for a while. You put these nighttime shades on a few hours before bedtime and they dramatically reduce the glare— the blue light— emanating from the various screens around you. There are various versions, including clip-ons, depending on whether you already wear glasses. There are also a variety of vendors, including Uvex, Warby Parker, and a plethora of options via Amazon, Walmart, and others. True, my iPhone has a nighttime mode, but honestly, the screen is so dim that I can’t really read much when it’s on and I bagged that solution pretty quickly.

Howard Tullman

In any event, I looked around and ended up ordering a pair of Swannies Blue Light Blocking Glasses. There are about a zillion styles and prices start at $69; I got a nice basic pair and started using them.

From around 7 p.m. on, I’m not looking at anything with a screen without them. It takes a couple of days to get fully used to them. The amber-tinted lenses change the colors on your screens somewhat— blues look more like greens, for instance, so you don’t want to be evaluating photos or magazine spreads. But now I barely notice that they’re on except for the fact that I actually feel that my eyes are less strained at day’s end because the glare/brightness of the monitor/screen is way down.

As far as the actual improvement in sleep goes, I haven’t asked the Swanwick company (in which I have no financial interest) about the actual science behind any of this. The company cites research showing that “blue light between 450 and 480nm suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone essential to quality sleep.” I don’t even know anything about the different phases of sleep— although I always liked REM’s music like The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight.

Yet I can report that while I’m still sleeping a lot less than the recommended eight hours (and always have), the sleep I’m getting does actually seem to be deeper and more effective. I wake up feeling like I got what I needed. As every ad always says though, individual results may vary and there are no guarantees except your 100% money back satisfaction.

But, if you’re like me, and pretty much chained to one screen or another for most hours of the day (like about 16 in my case), you need to start thinking about how to give yourself, your eyes, and your overall health some kind of break. It’s not just a carpal tunnel world that we need to be worried about.


Howard is author and co-author of several books, including his newest, “You Can’t Win a Race With Your Mouth: And 299 Other Expert Tips from a Lifelong Entrepreneur.”

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