Is Blue Light Interfering with Your Sleep and Damaging Your Health?

by Janel DuRoss

Feeling wired later at night? Can’t sleep? Exposure to the blue light wavelengths emitted from your smart phone, tablet, TV, computer and light fixtures all stimulate part of your brain, specifically the pineal gland. At night, this gland is scheduled to release melatonin, the hormone signals our bodies to wind down and prepare for sleep. The stress hormone cortisol can increase when your body is not getting decent care and rest.

Even though we have advanced in leaps and bounds with technology, take a look further where it is costing us as human beings. Before the major technology boom, we used to rise and shine with the sun and then prepare for sleep/rest at sunset, working in sync with our Circadian Rhythm. Our bodies are designed to sleep when it is dark.

Circadian Rhythm

Our circadian rhythm is our body’s internal clock, our innate system that functions by a day-to-night cycle; the need for adequate sleep is as important as attaining sufficient sunlight exposure. It’s your bodies delicate system to keep you in balance with your environment – working and resting when it needs it. When your circadian rhythm is off kilter, you will feel the effects with lower levels of productivity and alertness and possible ill health. Remember, there is sleep debt; you can only get back a certain amount, but that doesn’t mean your cognitive performance will be top notch.

Why is Blue Light Damaging?

The blue light is much more powerful and stimulating compared to green or other colors. With the hormone melatonin disrupted by blue light in the evening, it affects your sleep cycle and the dominoes start to fall elsewhere, increasing rates of obesity, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, endocrine disruptor, stress, anxiety, depression, migraines, eye strain, dizziness and headaches. Less (blue light) is more (better health).

Have you noticed most fine dining restaurants have ambient lighting (and or candles) to relax and soothe you so that you can linger and enjoy your evening? On the flip side, most fast-food/quick take-out chains have bright alarming fluorescent lights for the hurry up and go mentally, which keeps your nervous system and brain in a stimulated state even if it’s 1:00am in the morning!

“Light at night is part of the reason so many people don’t get enough sleep,” says Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher, and other researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Spectrums of Light

Sun light – full spectrum (natural and necessary for the life)
Incandescent light- full spectrum, but less than sunlight (less abrasive to the body)
Fluorescent / LED light – limited (abrasive and damaging to the body, especially at night + blue light)
Ambient light – candle light, warmer light (gentle on body)

Remember

Melatonin – puts you to bed
Cortisol – keeps you up/active (stimulated)

Take Action! Develop a Bedtime Ritual

  • turn off all technology 2hrs before bed, this step prepares the body, mind & nervous system to wind down
  • do not bring your smart phone, tablet or watch TV in bed!
  • make your bedroom dark, heavy curtains or shades for the windows, cover any electronics that are emitting light
  • at night wear orange blue light blocker eyeglasses, especially if you work the night shift
  • get plenty of sunlight exposure during the day which will help you have better sleep
  • keep your bedroom cool for adequate night’s sleep
  • take an epsom salt bath before bed (to help relax and induce sleep)

Your eyes and skin are sensory receptors, so make sure to make your bedroom completely dark. Even the tiniest light from the button on your wifi translates to the equivalent of stadium lighting to your eyes, skin and nervous system when you are trying to sleep.

Resources for blue light blockers

If you’ve found this article helpful, please share with your friends and family so they too can have better sleep and overall awesome health.

Janel teaches yoga, meditation, thai bodywork and related movement workshops in NJ and NYC. To learn more about her, visit her website.

(Photo by Ludovic Bertron)