Playing a game on your phone, shopping online with your tablet, or binging a show on your laptop is the new normal before bedtime. We live in a technological age and screen time has become habitual, but that doesn’t mean you should invite them to bed.
Before the invention of artificial lighting, the sun was the primary light source. Most people spent evenings in relative darkness. This has changed and people lay down with bright screens in their faces before bed, and their sleep is greatly affected.
Here’s The Problem With Artificial Light
LEDs, fluorescent light bulbs, incandescent bulbs, and all other forms of artificial light interfere with a healthy sleep cycle. The reason for this is because the amount of light and darkness a person is exposed to dictates the body’s sleep and wake cycle. When the body is exposed to too much light, the circadian rhythm suffers. Since circadian rhythm controls many physiological repsonses, including hormone production, cell regeneration, and brain activity, keeping a healthy circadian rhythm is of the utmost importance.
If you eliminate artificial light and only expose the body to natural sunlight, the hypothalamus area of the brain can establish a proper sleep cycle. It signals you to wake up when it is light outside and it produces sleep hormones, like melatonin, when it gets dark.
Now, let’s add artificial light into the equation. The body is suddenly confused because the retina can receive light at all hours of the day. This means that it cannot send signals to the hypothalamus to prepare the body for sleep. One study, which was published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found that exposure to room light during the night suppressed melatonin production by 85%.
What Is Blue Light And Where Are You Exposed To It?
Blue light is defined as visible light that ranges from 380 to 500 nm. It is a portion of the visible light spectrum that has the shortest wavelengths and highest energy. As previously mentioned, blue light stimulates cells in the retina that connect to the hypothalamus, which helps establish circadian rhythm. You are exposed to this type of light both indoors and outdoors. Some of the primary sources of blue light include:
- Sunlight is the most common form of blue light. Fun fact: scattered blue light rays make a cloudless sky appear blue on a sunny day.
- Screens on electronic devices, including phones, tablets, laptops, and computers.
- Light therapy boxes, which are used to treat seasonal affective disorder
- Fluorescent and LED bulbs that illuminate offices and homes.
The Effects Of Blue Light On Sleep
Exposure to blue light is natural, but problems arise when the body cannot get a break from blue light. According to Harvard Medical School, blue light boosts reaction times, mood, and attention. This is great during the day, but you don’t want this when you need to get a restful night’s sleep. Since blue light is the most sensitive side of the wavelength spectrum, it is integral to give the body a break from it in the hours before you go to sleep.
How To Limit Blue Light Exposure
Filter Blue Light With Glasses And Apps
If you want to keep using electronics at night, protect your eyes from blue light by investing in blue light-blocking glasses. Recent studies found that people who wore blue light-blocking glasses in regular dim light produced more melatonin than those who did not wear them. Glasses contain a coating that blocks blue light wavelengths from reaching the retina. If you don’t want to wear glasses, there are light-blocking apps that filter light on your smartphone, computer, or tablet.
Avoid Electronics Before Bed
It will be hard to break this habit, but doing so will help you establish a healthy circadian rhythm. Using your smartphone or watching TV right before bed can lead to sleepless nights. Try to give up electronics two to three hours before you go to sleep.
Get Exposure To Sunlight
Exposing the body to daytime sunlight helps to establish a healthy sleep cycle. By differentiating real daylight from nighttime, you’ll notice that you have an easier time falling asleep. Additionally, spending 30 minutes outside in the sun or near a window with natural light helps to increase vitamin D levels.
Blue light has its benefits, but it also has a dark side. Natural light is fantastic, but constant exposure to screens without blue light-filtering apps or glasses can disrupt circadian rhythm. Do what you can to limit screen time for better sleep.