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Amazon Fire HD 8 Reader's Edition is great for bedtime reading, but ...

James A. Martin | Dec. 18, 2015
Amazon's 'Blue Shade' filter for its new Kindle tablets blocks blue light that can interfere with sleep. The feature works well, but tablet use at night can still cause restlessness if users don't pay attention to what they read, as well as how they read.

kindle fire 8 readers edition blue shade
Credit: Amazon

In case you're not already aware, "blue light" at night is bad for you. (Blue light has "very short wavelength, and so produces a higher amount of energy," according to BlueLightExposed.com.)

Amazon has a potential solution in its "Blue Shade," a clever new feature designed to let you use its devices in bed at night without affecting sleep. Blue Shade works well, but it won't give light sleepers carte blanche to read whatever they want before turning in.

Blue light and electronics

Electronic device screens, such as those on tablets and smartphones, emit blue light, and it can be stimulating, interfere with melatonin levels, and make it harder to fall asleep. Penn State and Harvard scientists found that people who use ereaders before bed take nearly 10 minutes longer to fall asleep, and their sleep quality is worse than those who read printed material.

A number of tech companies, including Asus and ViewSonic, recently started to address the blue light issue in their latest products. Google added a "night light" feature to Google Play Books that's designed to filter blue light. And Amazon also joined the anti-blue-light brigade with a new Blue Shade filter built into its Fire "Bellini" OS5.

kindle fire 8 readers edition blue shade 2
Credit: Amazon

Blue Shade 'sufficiently' suppresses blue light

The new Fire OS feature lets you adjust Amazon device screen color settings and brightness levels. Using Blue Shade, "the blue wavelength light (from the device screen) is always sufficiently suppressed," according to Amazon.

I tested the feature on the company's new Fire 8 Reader's Edition ($250), a tablet designed specifically for readers, the people who are most likely to curl up in bed with devices that bathe them in blue light.

It's easy to turn on the feature; you just swipe down from the top of the tablet screen and tap the Blue Shade icon. You can adjust the filter by going to the tablet's Settings > Display > Blue Shade.

Effectiveness of Blue Shade depends on what you read

Turning on Blue Shade at night helped me relax before bed. However, the first night I used the feature, it also gave me license to do what my doctor strictly warned against: check email, surf the Web, or install apps before going to sleep. I can't do any of that with an actual printed book. And all the activity made it hard for me to shut my mind down and fall asleep.

amazon blue shade 2

That's not Amazon's fault, of course; it's mine. The experience served as an important reminder that it's not just how you read at bedtime, it's what you read. Ideally, I might turn on Blue Shade and read something that's not too stimulating — say, a novel that's not a thriller or mystery, or a non-fiction book that's not work-related. It's also a good idea to read only one thing, instead of jumping from Web page, to app, to novel, as I did.

 

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