Why Blue Light Is Bad for Sleep

Why Blue Light Is Bad for Sleep

Are you aware of the serious effects of blue light on sleep?

If you’re like many, watching TV or using your phone before falling asleep is a nighttime ritual. But it’s one we desperately need to reconsider if we want to protect our precious sleep.

So let’s have a look at what blue light is, its effects on sleep and some strategies to limit these consequences.

What is Blue Light?

Blue light is a color of visible light detectable by the human eye. Its wavelength is one of the shortest on the electromagnetic spectrum making it one of the most intense.

What Emits Blue Light?

The following are a list of common sources of blue light:

  • The Sun
  • TV
  • Smartphone
  • Computer
  • Laptop
  • Tablet
  • Fluorescent Lighting
  • LED Lighting

Is Blue Light Bad?

Blue light is not necessarily bad for you on its own – it is a normal part of our vibrant color spectrum. However, the rise of technology has dramatically increased our exposure once the sun goes down.

Research indicates it has a terrible influence on our sleep hygiene. It plays havoc with the production of one of our body’s important sleep hormones, Melatonin.

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the Pineal Gland as the sun goes down. Its main role is to prepare our body for sleep. Similarly, Melatonin production reduces as the light starts to filter through again in the morning, letting us know it’s time to wake.

Blue light emitted from our screens can reduce production of Melatonin, an important hormone for sleep.Click To Tweet

This sleep/wake cycle is often known as our Circadian Rhythm.

Why Blue Light is Bad For Sleep

Blue light’s suppression of Melatonin production toys with your body’s preparedness for sleep.

Nighttime exposure basically tells your body it’s not time to do the one thing you’re supposed to be doing. You may still sleep your usual hours but the quality can be compromised.

Shawn Stevenson, author of Sleep Smarter and host of The Model Health Show suggests that each hour of exposure to blue light suppresses melatonin for approximately 30 minutes.

Each hour of exposure to blue light suppresses melatonin for approximately 30 minutes.Click To Tweet

Furthermore, he suggests that going to bed without normal melatonin production results in “devastatingly poor sleep cycles, and not being able to fully rejuvenate your brain and body.”

Going to bed with reduced melatonin production results in devastatingly poor sleep cycles, poor rejuvenation of brain and body.Click To Tweet

Staggeringly, Shawn also mentions that Melatonin disruption has broader ramifications than just sleep. Suppressed Melatonin “disrupts the normal function of virtually ALL other hormones in your body. Hormones related to weight management, digestive function, and immune system function.”

Suppressed Melatonin also disrupts the normal function of virtually ALL other hormones in your body. Hormones related to weight management, digestive function, and immune system function.Click To Tweet

It also comes with an “increased risk of cancer, obesity, gut dysbiosis, diabetes, and more.”

So as you can see, something as simple as prolonged screen time can do far more than just make your eyes tired. It may have broader health consequences as well.

How You Can Protect Against Blue Light

The obvious one is to try and reduce your nighttime exposure where possible.

Our habits and preferences can make this tricky, but do your best to get off the tech immediately before going to bed. At the very least get that technology out of your bedroom.

Secondly, consider equipping a blue light filter on your phone, tablet, laptop, and computer.

Blue Light Filters

Most smartphones have an in-built filter you can equip.

Android phones have a specific drop-down feature you can enable and Apple uses something called Night Shift.

If you’re looking for a blue light filter for a laptop or desktop, consider using a program called f.lux. It’s quite handy and easy to use.

There are also some fantastic apps you can download for your phone.

I’m personally using the Twilight app on my Android and find it very useful.

Here is a screenshot of how my phone looks with the filter equipped. There isn’t generally a huge change in color but it does tend to look a little redder.

screenshot of your wellness nerd webpage with reddening from blue light filter

The idea with many of these filters is to start removing blue light as the sun goes down. Just like in nature. You can usually set a pre-determined timeframe for filtering, but most just go off daylight charts.

Most blue light filters can be paused for times when you need to see accurate colors. This can be a little annoying if you are designing, gaming, taking screenshots, etc. But the benefits far outweigh any inconvenience on this one.

Switch Your Light Globes

Another simple option is to try and replace any LED or fluorescent lights with warmer alternatives. Similarly, turn them off where possible.

Blue Light Glasses

Another increasingly popular option to consider is blue light glasses. These are best used when watching TV at night or for a high amount of screen time throughout the day.

Much like 3D glasses, you may find your options a little limited if you genuinely need a prescription. But if you know what you need you can hunt around and find something suitable.

infographic showing 4 tips to reduce blue light exposure

Conclusion

This is just another example of how the modern world may leave a subtle, yet potentially nasty legacy on our health and well-being. For more, consider checking out other physical signs the modern world is taking a toll on your body.

But for now, focus on reducing your nightly exposure to blue light. It may be as simple as equipping a filter on your phone or changing a light bulb or two. By doing so, you may be pleasantly surprised at how powerful these basic ideas can be.

Enjoy a better night’s sleep on us, you deserve it.

Have you taken any steps to reduce your exposure to blue light? If so what would you recommend?

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