I talk about the link between blue light and not sleeping well frequently. It is probably one of the things I talk about the most when it comes to sleep because it affects people of all ages and is becoming more of an issue everyday.
So what is blue light and how does it affect my sleep?
Prevent Blindness says of blue light:
“Sunlight is made up of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet light. When combined, it becomes the white light we see. Each of these has a different energy and wavelength. Rays on the red end have longer wavelengths and less energy. On the other end, blue rays have shorter wavelengths and more energy. Light that looks white can have a large blue component, which can expose the eye to a higher amount of wavelength from the blue end of the spectrum.”
So what does this mean?
There is blue light in the suns rays but there is also blue light emitted from synthetic lighting. This is where the negative affects of blue light play a role in your sleep.
Our sleep is regulated (partially) by light and darkness. Natural sunlight in the day is very good for our bodies and helps to regulate our sleep (circadian rhythm). Darkness in the evening signals our bodies that it is time to get ready for sleep. Synthetic light during the night, however, will affect our sleep by sending a message to our brain that it isn’t time to go to sleep. It prevents the release of the hormone melatonin, which reaches its peak right before we go to sleep. If melatonin is suppressed, our cortisol levels will rise which can cause a stress reaction and sometimes leave our bodies in a state of fight-or-flight. You can imagine what that is now going to do to our sleep.
Imagine you are on your computer (or your phone or tablet or television) right before you want to go to bed. Melatonin production has been halted, cortisol starts to creep up and your body and brain have been notified that’s it is not bed time but time to be awake. But then your realize that you have an important meeting in the morning and you better get to bed so you are at your best in the morning.
You get into bed and you can’t shut your brain off. You start to panic that if you don’t go to sleep soon you will have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning and you won’t feel optimal.
Your body and brain have not gone through the process of going to sleep as they should and now they are a little confused. Is it time for sleep? Time to be awake? It’s not sure but now your cortisol level is so high at the wrong time of day that it is leaving you feeling very anxious and preventing you from going to sleep.
So what can we do about it?
It is easy to say just stop using electronics with blue light but let’s be honest, most of us rely on these devices daily for work, entertainment and just about everything we do. No one expects that we should stop using them altogether but there are some healthy ways to use them without ruining our sleep.
- Turn off electronics at least one hour before you go to bed. This can also be difficult for many people but it is the best way to ensure the blue light is not going to interrupt your sleep. It can take some planning on your part but there are lots of things you can do in that time that are actually good for your sleep such as light yoga, meditation, journaling, family game night, etc.
- Turn down the lights on your devices. There are apps such as f.lux that will naturally turn down the lights on your devices as the sun goes down.
- Use blue blocking glasses in the hours before bed. If you absolutely must be on your computer or phone before bed, this is a great way to block the blue light and let your body release melatonin as it should. This will mean you can go to bed when you are ready without your sleep being interrupted. These glasses can be ordered online and are not terribly expensive
- Change the light bulbs in your house. The lights you have in your home can also impact your sleep. Getting up in the night to use the washroom and turning the lights on can make it very difficult to go back to sleep. Consider changing the bulbs in your bathroom or other areas you may need light in the evening or during the night with these blue blocking lights.
Being aware of some of the changes you can make is the first step to improving the quality of your sleep. For more tips on healthy sleep or to schedule a FREE 15 minute phone call with Sleep Wise visit www.sleepwise.ca