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Alaska Sleep Education Center

Blue Light and Sleep Health

Posted by Ricky Kyle on Jan 14, 2020 5:39:00 AM

Picture by StockSnap from Pixabay

Blue light has become a subject of interest for medical professionals, scientists and the general public to decipher what it is, if and why it's harmful and what relation it has to sleep. And so, below we'll walk through the affect artificial light has on our lives, the importance of quality sleep, and how blue light could interfere with your nightly snooze, and your health.

Sleep Is Critical

A fundamental part of everyone’s survival is sleeping. Whether you're a rock star, the
president, an athlete, or an ordinary person, no individual can sacrifice sleep without feeling
the burden that comes with it.

Many of us are familiar with our bodies becoming tired and
forcing us to sleep. Whether you're driving, at work, or casually food shopping, if your body
wants and needs its rest, your eyelids will drop.

Furthermore, your sleep is vital to improve your concentration, prevent weight gain, increase
athletic performance, reduce heart disease risk, and inflammation in the body, and much
more.

For instance, according to eachnight, you should be careful about what mattress you
invest in.  Budget-friendly mattresses are more likely to deteriorate quickly, which could
misalign the spine and intensify back pain. Other recommendations include cutting down on
caffeine and exercising during the day.

Modern Living

Before the invention of the lightbulb in 1879 by Thomas Eddison, people relied on the sun to set their sleep and wake cycles. However, with the introduction of cheap electricity, people could continue their work that they were unable to complete in the daylight hours. For instance, electric lighting was, and still is, particularly beneficial for factories where employees are required to work through the evening.

The appreciation of electric light expanded worldwide, with major cities illuminated with lighting throughout the evening.

Following the invention of electric lighting, most cities became the "city that never sleeps". From entrepreneurs working through the night on their new startup to college students staying up to finish their assignments. And so for many people across the world, night time has become the second part of the day to get things. Because of this, a lot of people tend to cut their sleeping schedule short and rely on caffeine to get them through the following day. Nevertheless, this isn't the only issue artificial light brings to your life.

The Risks of Blue Light

It's not just any light that's grappling with people's sleep. Blue light appears to be the main culprit that's under scrutiny by medical professionals and scientists, as manufacturers increasingly turn to LED lighting that emits blue light because of its energy-efficient properties—it also grants more light and less heat.

The majority of products produced today, such as mobile phones, use blue lighting and so the rise of blue light in people's lives continues. According to Harvey Medical School, blue light has a dark side that negatively impacts the circadian rhythm. And long-term repeat exposure can pose health risks such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. However, exposure to blue light is only harmful at night when your body needs to sleep.

 

Picture by Pashminu Mansukhani from Pixabay

Blue Light During The Day

Our eyes are receptive to the short blue light waves exhibited from the sun that reflect and bounce around the molecules of the earth; this leads to the sky appearing blue. During the day time, our circadian rhythms are sensitive to this form of light and let us know it's day time, and our bodily processes adjust to reflect the change in light.

However, at night time, our bodies need the darkness to let our bodies know it's time to wind down and fall asleep. When your eyes experience the dark, your pineal gland produces the hormone melatonin to help your body sleep.

Suppressed Sleep

However, if your eyes are exposed to blue LED at night, the light-sensitive receptors in your eyes detect blue light, and this pauses the production of melatonin. Decreased melatonin affects your ability to fall asleep preventing you from your night of peaceful slumber. The unnatural process of blue LED light which shapes your circadian rhythm is what leads to an imbalance with your bodily functions. This is because your circadian rhythm monitors and is responsible for triggering essential bodily functions. From your temperature, appetite, mood, energy levels, and even the amount of urine you produce. Thus tampering with your body's natural regime causes an imbalance in your system that can lead to serious health problems.

Sleep Remedies

Although it may be hard to prize your eyes away from your routine of watching TV until late or refrain from checking your bank balance on your phone up until the brink of sleep. Sleep experts suggest that you switch off any electronics for at least one hour before you intend to sleep. But alongside blocking out your exposure to light before bedtime, there are other areas you should take on board too to enhance the quality of your sleep.

The US National Sleep Foundation recommends how much sleep you need based on your age, and adults require at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Furthermore, as mentioned above,  a luxury mattress accustomed to your weight, height, and needs can facilitate a restful night. And make your bed more of a much-wanted getaway than a necessity you need to abide by to function the next day. Furthermore, alcohol and caffeine can affect your energy levels and impair not just falling asleep but staying asleep too.

Artificial lighting is one of the riding culprits alongside caffeine, alcohol, prescription drugs, stress, chronic pain and diet that can impair your sleep health. Factoring in the above recommendations can holistically enable you to gain a restful, quality night’s sleep every night.

So that whatever the day might bring you, you can rest in peace at night and feel refreshed and revitalized the following day.

You can create a healthy distance between you and any potentially poor health conditions associated with exposure to blue light at night time.

With the addictive nature of a cell phone, here are some questions to ask yourself if you consider the cell phone to be a huge distraction to your sleep quality.

Think back to the last time you fell asleep without your cell phone in bed. It may be too long to remember, but exposure to the blue light from screens before bed leads to drowsiness even with a full eight hours in bed. Studies show emittance of the blue light “prevents our brains from releasing melatonin, a hormone that tells our bodies it's nighttime.”

image of businesswoman touching screen with finger

Plug your phone across the room; this can also help with hitting snooze too many times in the morning. Giving up the phone for an hour before bedtime will help distract your brain from the light. I am not suggesting you keep your phone at 5 percent life but don’t charge your phone next to your bed; otherwise you will be tempted to get on your phone in bed.

Natural sunlight combined with exercise helps balance your circadian rhythm. It also increases your daytime energy and sleep quality. With people suffering from insomnia, exposure to natural light fall asleep faster.

Keeping a Sleep Journal

It is important to not ignore any sleep quality issues. Before meeting with your physician, start keeping track of any changes through a sleep journal. Tracking your sleep patterns and routines at bedtime will be a big asset to start expert help. Download our free sleep journal here.

If you have never kept a sleep journal, start simple:

  • Wake up and bedtime
  • The last time and meal you last ate
  • The season and room temperature
  • How tired you were at work
  • The last drink you took (water, caffeine)
  • Any medications you took
  • Time of day and amount of exercise during the day

If you live in Alaska and want to see if a sleep study is right for you, contact The Alaska Sleep Clinic for a free 10-minute phone call with a sleep educator who can help determine if a sleep study is necessary or if a consultation with our sleep specialist needs to be scheduled @ 907-357-6700.

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Topics: sleep habits, sleep hygiene, blue light screen

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