Blue Light Special? I Don’t Think So!
As you may know different light sources have different wavelengths, and therefore project a different color if you will. Is the thought of reading a geeky article about wavelengths unappealing? YAWN….well not so fast. What if you are consistently tired and/or not getting enough sleep (yes…the YAWN pun was intended), and are therefore losing your ability to be happy and productive? And what if this could be due to what color of light you are exposing yourself to prior to going to bed? Well, read on my friends. Light is the most prominent external cue that affects our circadian rhythm. In our technological, social media driven society, it’s not just the natural light that affects us, but more significantly, it’s the unnatural, manmade lights that are reeking havoc on our sleep.
In the good ole days, before iPhones, iPads, Androids, laptops, MP3players, and LED big screen TVs in the bedroom (blue light), we lived our lives according to the natural light. Daylight represents the blue, violet, and green wavelengths of light that signal our body to be awake by suppressing the melatonin release. When night fell before electricity, we utilized fires, candles, and oil lamps to provide light in which to eat dinner, enjoy family time, or unwind with a good book before turning in for a proper night’s sleep. These light sources have the red, orange, and yellow wavelengths that stimulate melatonin release and therefore, allow us to fall into a deep restful slumber. I mean honestly…when is the last time you fell into a deep restful slumber?
So that blue light that is pelting your retina at night isn’t special at all is it? NO! It’s zapping the release of melatonin, and killing your ability to gain proper sleep. In addition to feeling tired, having less cognitive ability, diminishing your mental capacity, and increasing your stress, there are some other health risks related to the disturbance of our circadian rhythm such as:
- Increased risk of metabolic syndrome and obesity related diseases
- Increased risk of breast cancer
- Increase susceptibility to skin cancer
So what do you do? It has been suggested to truly get back to our natural circadian rhythm and therefore obtain the best possible sleep, we should avoid blue light once it is dark out. Yeah right! Especially now that it gets dark at 5 friggin’ 30 in January. Okay…so what is realistic? Even if you discontinue the use of blue light devices one hour prior to your bedtime, that will have a positive impact on your ability to release melatonin and get some sleep. And if you happen to couple that with lighting some candles (yellow light) and partaking is some form of relaxation…then extra bonus points for you! You are on your way to having a better night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world.
So far I have been successful at lighting candles each night when I get home from work, and I have noticed an improvement in my ability to stay asleep. However, I am having difficulty with discontinuing the blue light stimulation one hour prior to bed, and therefore falling asleep is still and issue. I am not giving up though.
I would love to hear what strategies you have implemented in order to ensure better sleep….and therefore improve the quality of your life.