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Blue Light’s Effect on Sleep

We all have a mental checklist to get ready for bed. Some people may brush their teeth, throw on their PJs, and curl up in bed with a good book. Some people need to get their CPAP machine ready to assist throughout the night with their slumber. Some people like to spend a few minutes rehashing the day or getting in some quality time with their partner. Most are making sure they have everything they need to curl up and get a great nights rest.  What is your personal checklist for nighttime? How many of us tuck ourselves into bed at night with our phones?

According to research from Business Insider 90% of 18-29 year old’s sleep with their smartphones…ninety percent. The numbers do tend to go down a bit as age increases however another 95% of people are using the phone for something just before going to bed and a whopping half of people check their phones immediately if they wake up during the night. These numbers are astonishing. Aside from the general addiction we have established as a society to our mobile devices. Read more about cell phone addiction and nomophobia here. The different effects that blue light can have on the quality of our sleep and the amount we are sleeping can create some much unwanted problems as being on your phone or other electronic devices leads to absorption of blue light.

Why Is Blue Light Problematic?

Blue light has been linked to problems like blurry vision, eyestrain, dry eye, macular degeneration, and cataracts. You can read more about the harmful effects of blue light here. Blue light absorption can cause all kinds of issues leading in and up to evening hours. The biggest problem with blue light and it’s effect on our sleep is that it is an unnatural light that blocks our natural melatonin response from our bodies leading to large delays in falling asleep, disrupting our bodies natural rhythm, and potentially leading to damaging side effects from lack of sleep as well.

According to a study done by Harvard ‘While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light at night does so more powerfully. Harvard researchers and their colleagues conducted an experiment comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light of comparable brightness. The blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).” If someone is using their phone every night before bed they are potentially damaging their bodies natural rhythm and pull to falling asleep. It is going to take you longer to fall asleep overall and for those with limited time frames built in for sleeping the results of this could be disastrous, for an eight hour window losing 3 hours is more than they can afford. For those people who start out in a deficit this can lead to even bigger problems. Lack of sleep long term could result in major damage long term as lack of sleep has been contributed to diabetes and heart disease among others.

What can be done about blue light? One solution is to practice a cut off time of all electronics before bed. Most experts recommend cutting off cell phone and electronic usage at least thirty minutes before your bedtime. This will allow your body time to get adjusted and start producing its natural level of melatonin and get ready for sleep. You can try turning on night mode for your phone, this will alter the screen of your device and get it switched over to a warmer color thus reducing the amount of blue light being absorbed. If you don’t love the color it produces you can also try turning the brightness to the lowest setting. A final option for bedtime (or just those who are ultra sensitive to blue light as a whole) would be blue light blocking glasses.

Blue Light Filtering Glasses

Blue light glasses have been proven to help reduce absorption and protect:  “In another study of blue light, researchers at the University of Toronto compared the melatonin levels of people exposed to bright indoor light who were wearing blue-light–blocking goggles to people exposed to regular dim light without wearing goggles.

The fact that the levels of the hormone were about the same in the two groups strengthens the hypothesis that blue light is a potent suppressor of melatonin. It also suggests that shift workers and night owls could perhaps protect themselves if they wore eyewear that blocks blue light. Inexpensive sunglasses with orange-tinted lenses block blue light, but they also block other colors, so they’re not suitable for use indoors at night. Glasses that block out only blue light can cost up to $80.” Check out this list of blue light blocking glasses.

Minimizing blue light absorption can be beneficial to your health and quality of sleep. Establish a new evening routine that relaxes you but doesn’t directly link to electronic usage. This will be productive in more ways than one. For more tips on how to start disconnecting a little more and practice it purposefully click here. You may see some great tips we didn’t cover here! I love the suggestion to put your phone to bed for the night. In such a technologically connected world it is important to remember to reflect on our health, your sleep, and the choices we can make to better it.

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