Sleep is the master key to good health—Everyone wants it, and only a few people have it. It has recently been discovered that the average duration of sleep has reduced over time, and worse still, sleep quality has also declined. Unsurprisingly, poor sleep has been linked to different health issues such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity and depression.
With recent research proving the decline of sleep hours and quality, many people are questioning what suddenly triggered this change. Studies have shown that using artificial lighting and electronics at night may trigger sleep problems. This is mostly due to the fact that these devices produce light of a blue wavelength, which may trick the brain into thinking it is still daytime even at sundown. Even though blue light is environmentally friendly, it can alter sleep patterns and potentially cause diseases. You heard right… your beloved phone, tablet, even television may all be playing a mind game with your mind… Is your mind blown yet?
What is Blue Light?
Blue light is a visible color on the light spectrum—it is a kind of light we can see with the naked eye. Colors on the light spectrum all have different effects. Blue light is known to be beneficial and healthy during the daytime because it boosts attention, reaction times, alertness and moods. Unfortunately, the abundance of this artificial lighting, primarily from electronic devices with screens, is increasing our exposure to blue light wavelengths, especially after sunset. This is because these devices emit light of a blue wavelength which disrupts the body's internal clock, resulting in poor sleep.
The Process of Blue Light and How if Affects Sleep
The human brain has an internal clock which regulates the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is the body’s 24-hour biological cycle which influences many internal functions like regulating the awake and asleep times. However, this circadian rhythm requires signals from the external environment, especially daylight and darkness to appropriately adjust itself.
Blue light activates sensors in the eyes to send signals to the brain's internal clock. Sunlight and white light contain a mixture of various wavelengths, including blue-wavelength light. So, getting blue light from the sun during the daytime helps us to remain alert and thereby enhance performance and mood. Blue light therapy devices are being used to treat depression, while blue light bulbs have been known to alleviate fatigue and improve mood, performance, and sleep. However, light bulbs and electronic devices, most especially computer monitors and cellphones produce huge amounts of blue light and may interrupt and disturb your internal clock if you’re exposed to it late in evening.
Daylight keeps the body’s internal clock aligned with the environment. At sundown, the body’s pineal gland secretes the hormone called melatonin. This hormone signals to the body to get tired and feel sleepy. Blue light, coming from the sun, a cellphone, a laptop or any other source, hinders melatonin production, thereby reducing both the quantity and quality of sleep.
A suppression in melatonin level in the evening can be a causative factor to different health problems, including obesity, cancer, heart disease and depression due to lack of quality sleep. Furthermore, chronic sleep deprivation has also been associated with acceleration of the aging process. The human body produces growth hormones and activates the immune system during deep sleep. The skin regenerates overnight so we can wake up with a younger skin after a good night’s sleep.
How to Regulate Blue Light
The body needs melatonin to sleep, so a lifestyle that overexposes you to blue light from screens of electronic devices can be disastrous for your sleep schedule. However, here are a few tips to help you regulate blue light and get a better sleep routine.
Use Apps that Block Blue Light at Night
If you can’t afford to stay off screens at night and don’t want to buy glasses that block blue light, there are apps that regulate the light emitted by electronic display screens that might help. The free desktop app F.lux, iOS’s Night Shift mode or other blue-light-reducing apps for smartphones turn the nighttime setting on automatically. F.lux adjusts your screens color to the type of light your body should be exposed to throughout the day. The app gives off blue-toned light during the day, and at night, your monitor will become warmer to match the lighting in your home. 2.
Take Some Time Off
Ensure that you stay away from blue light from screens at least 2-3 hours before your bedtime. Turn off the computer, put away your smartphone and stay away from your laptop. Getting into an evening routine without blue light will allow your body to ease into sleep quicker and more soundly.
Douse the Lights
As you prepare for bed, ensure you dim the lights. By dimming the lights in your bedroom at least an hour before bedtime, you can create the relaxed setting your body needs to get tired and sleepy. During this time, you may want to try some relaxation exercises. You’ll prepare your mind and body for rest.
We can all agree, we love technology and smart devices. It’s hard not to be consumed by anything involving blue light in this day and age. Phones, computers, tablets, all positively impact our lives on a daily basis. Now that these devices have been around for some time, we are starting to see the negative side effects as well. Having quality sleep is literally the foundation to your health. Without a strong foundation, you have nothing to build on. Protect your foundation of health by getting quality rest each night. Now that you understand the dramatic effects of blue light… put down your phone, or tablet, or turn off your PC. Get some rest. Goodnight!