How Does Blue Light Affect Your Sleep?
We could accomplish so much if we just cut out sleep from our daily schedule. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? But that’s essentially what folks are doing by using their electronic devices at night. Today we'll discuss not letting blue light affect your sleep.
Why do we need to sleep, anyways? As the saying goes, "I'll sleep when I'm dead." Not exactly a wise idea.
Sleep is a critical time when our bodies replenish and repair the wear and tear from our daily activities. This happens at a cellular level. Little bots who live in our organs get to work with little brooms, sweeping off our cells and put our building blocks back into place.
But what if you're doing things that cause your body to not fall asleep? How does blue light affect your sleep, and what changes can you make to level up your sleep game?
Blue Light and Circadian Rhythm
Almost every one of us depends on the convenience that our gadgets offer. It’s not entirely a bad thing, since smartphones, tablets, and computers definitely add to our quality of life. Our productivity goes up, making a lot of lives and tasks much easier.
However, is too much of a good thing a bad thing? To put it plainly, yes. In this case, too much of a good thing can have severe effects on those who unwittingly use this new technology without the proper habits or protection.
Light, before anything else, is a stimulus.
Natural light from the sun is very balanced in terms of composure. This means that it has just the right amount of blue light that the body can handle safely, since the human body has had hundreds of thousands of years to adapt to it.
Artificial light, on the other hand, refers to any sort of lighting that is man-made. The light given off by electronics tends to give off more blue light. The body reacts to this blue light similarly whether it comes from the sun or a cell phone.
Ultimately, blue light coming off our electronic devices can affect our body's balance and disrupt our circadian rhythm.
What is Circadian Rhythm and How Does It Work?
How does our body know when it is time sleep? It depends on our circadian rhythm, which is our body’s natural clock. It's how our bodies know how to wake up in the morning, when to eat, when to think about big problems, and when to sleep.
Our clocks are re-synced by the rising of the sun. Body clocks average 24-hour-cycles but can range from 22-26 hours. There are rhythms and oscillations that take place over the day.
The circadian rhythm is influenced by light sensitive retinal proteins that trigger signals to the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN for short. The SCN is a group of cells that lives in the hypothalamus, just above your mouth’s hard pallet. It receives info from the retina, influenced by light, to promote sleep or wakefulness.
Based on the signals it receives, the SCN then sends a message to the pineal gland to release melatonin. What is melatonin? Melatonin, also called the sleep hormone, is mostly produced during nighttime. It's responsible for making us feel drowsy and also reducing our body's temperature at night.
While our bodies are constantly influenced by neurochemical changes of our ‘chemical soup’, our eyes are extremely sensitive to light, and respond by increasing melatonin when there is less light to activate the SCN. This works in the reverse - when our eyes detect light, mainly in the morning, our body slows down the release of melatonin so we can wake up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, as we drag ourselves to the coffee maker.
If artificial blue light slows down the body's natural production of melatonin at night, do you see how that can affect your sleep quality and getting to sleep quickly?
Can Blue Light Cause Insomnia?
According to research, excessive light can disrupt our normal sleep cycle. Many studies report blue light disrupts sleep. There is a plethora of science to back up these claims.
- Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School
- Brigham Health Hub
- Healthline (many links to research in article)
- Scientific American
- University of Haifa
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Sleep disorders
There’s no denying that proper sleep is one of the many keys to a balanced and healthy lifestyle. If one doesn’t have the ability to cut back on using electronic devices during resting hours, then it’s necessary to take additional precautionary measures.
Making a small investment and purchasing a blue light filter can yield incredible results. As of 2018, there’s no better way to counter the negative effects of blue light exposure than blue light filters.
Blue light filter glasses are a fantastic choice for a number of reasons. They are highly portable, relatively cheap, and have incredibly positive results on one’s health. Depending on the model you could even make fashion statement.
Blue light filter panels are also an excellent alternative. Putting one on the TV can be the difference between a cozy nap on the couch while watching Doctor Who reruns and visiting the doctor for prescription glasses. So please, take these small, efficient steps and improve your quality of life.
If you're a heavy computer user for work or play, your best bet is to get a low blue light monitor that has special blue light reducing features, or a flicker-free screen to decrease eye strain.
Whatever option you choose, take care of your body and limit the amount of blue light you receive. By following this advise you'll sleep better and no doubt Level Up Your Sleep Game.