It goes without saying that proper sleep is a pillar of great health and optimal wellbeing. After a long day at work, attending to various responsibilities and household duties, our bodies must regenerate and recharge to function properly the next day. That said, numerous studies have shown that people have been getting less quality sleep over recent years. One of the main culprits is our exposure to artificial blue lights; it disrupts our natural sleep-wake cycle and prevents us from enjoying restorative rest. To help you understand why that’s the case and the consequences, we’ve put together an informative guide on how to manage and effectively control blue light to reacquaint yourself with quality sleep.
How Does Blue Light Affect Sleep?
Our bodies are naturally equipped with an internal clock that’s responsible for regulating the circadian rhythm, which is what determines our sleep-wake schedule. Our circadian rhythm responds to indicators from the surrounding environment, mainly daylight and darkness, to adjust itself and prepare the body for waking up and sleeping.
While blue light emitted by the sky can help us feel energized and boost our mood during the day, blue wavelengths (especially from artificial sources, like a TV or phone screen) can be detrimental to our ability to fall asleep and rest well at night. During the evening, what blue light does is basically trick the brain into thinking it’s still daytime. It does so by effectively suppressing the production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone that’s secreted in darkness. As a result, it takes you longer to fall asleep, which means your body will have less time to rest and recuperate.
Ways to Limit or Block Blue Light
If you’ve noticed that your eyes are particularly tired before bedtime and that you experience trouble falling asleep, it may be time to take action. Fortunately, there is a host of effective solutions on the market that will help limit your exposure to blue light during the evening.
The first reflex to adopt is to cut off the use of electronics at least one hour before bedtime; this will allow your metabolism to regulate melatonin production, helping you find sleep more easily. Dimming the brightness on your devices or using blue light filters can be a good way to limit your exposure as well. Note that blue light management can also be achieved with blue-light-blocking glasses for both day and night, which you’ll easily find available online with some bit of research; these are usable whether or not you have eyesight problems. Likewise, replacing old, harmful LED and incandescent light bulbs in your living room and bedroom should help you keep the problem at bay.
Common Sources of Blue Light
As you’ve probably guessed, the main culprits for blue light emission during the evenings are our electronics. While it’s true that technology has made information, communication, and entertainment more accessible than ever, our screen devices also present certain risks for our health. Notably, using our smartphones in bed or watching television to fall asleep is a surefire way to harm our eyes and prevent us from getting the sleep our bodies need. Tablets, computer monitors, and gaming systems also project harmful blue lights. As previously mentioned, it’s best to limit screen time as much as possible, use blue light filters, and put away electronics and gadgets at least one hour before heading to bed. Over time, your body will get used to finding sleep faster, you’ll enjoy quality rest, and wake up more energized.
Last but not least, it’s important to be aware that repeated exposure to blue light during the evening can have adverse effects and jeopardize our body functions. As a matter of fact, chronic nighttime melatonin suppression has been shown to induce many serious health problems, including depression, anxiety, epilepsy, obesity, as well as some forms of cancer. That’s all the more reason to adjust your habits, use your smartphone in dark mode, and leave electronics out of sight before bedtime. This will prevent eye strains, and your body will thank you for it come morning.
All things considered, the effects of blue light on our health are well beyond debate. Because it inhibits the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, blue wavelengths can disrupt our natural sleep-wake schedule and make us experience a host of sleep-related problems. As much as we love watching TV, browsing the internet, or scrolling through social media before falling asleep, leaving these activities for daytime or implementing adequate solutions will go a long way in regulating our circadian rhythm and optimize our health and wellbeing.