Turn off those Blue Lights at Night

Posted by Maria on August 22, 2012 under 31 Blog Posts in 31 Days, Green Living, Pop-Psychology, Sleep, Spa and Sleep Dictionary, Uncategorized, Wellness | 2 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Did you know that blue lights (like the lights from your tv, computer, cell phone and even your alarm clock/radio) dim your chances of getting a good night’s sleep? As it turns out, blue lights tamper with our circadian rhythms and therefore our melatonin levels and therefore our sleep cycles.

Circadian Rhythms

The circadian rhythm is an innate daily fluctuation of physiological and behavioural functions, (including sleeping and waking), that is generally tied to the 24-hour day/night cycle. Our rhythms are regulated by external cues (also known as “Zeitgebers”) such as sunlight and night sky, temperatures, what we eat (including medicines), when we eat, and our social interactions with others.

Light (and the absence of light) has always played a significant role in our daily lives and it affects our activities, hormone levels and sleep cycles. As humans, we have intuitively sought shelter and a safe place to sleep at night and we use the illumination and safety of daylight for hunting, gathering and travelling.

Blue Light

For millions of years, blue light (like the light from mid-morning sky) has meant daylight and time for us to be busy and productive. When we sense blue light, the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, is limited, and we stay alert and awake.

We have also evolved over millions of years to have the deepest, most restful sleep in a very dark environment that does not expose us to any light (especially blue and green wavelengths) while we are sleeping. The absence of blue light cues the melatonin and we get sleepy.

Have you ever watched tv in a room that doesn’t have any other lights on? Everything becomes blue. Manmade blue lights, like those eminating from your tv or computer screen, mimic broad daylight and also disrupt our sleep patterns and sleep hormones. If we are getting ready to go to bed at night but continue to “work” under artificial lighting, the blue lights will send mixed messages to the brain and the brain won’t know whether to 1)relax and go to bed or 2) suppress melatonin, stay up and be alert. This may be a good time to rethink having a tv in your bedroom or checking your Twitter and Facebook one last time before midnight.

Curiously, reddish light (like from a candle or fireplace) doesn’t effect melatonin production, so it’s fine to use in the evening hours or as a nightlight in the middle of the night.

Here are some tips of how to turn off the blue lights at night and sleep better:

  • Seek yellow light and avoid blue light after dark;
  • Minimize or eliminate the use of electronics that emit blue light after dark;
  • Trade your blue/green digital alarm/clock radio to one with red lights;
  • Pay attention to the time you start feeling sleepy and honour it — Don’t let that second wind kick in;
  • Go to bed earlier;
  • Take a bath by candlelight and see how much better you sleep. (The bath and the candlelight will work synergystically and I don’t recommend taking your iPhone with you on this occasion :) ).
  • Keep your bedroom as dark as pitch when you are sleeping.
  • Try falling asleep with a pair of eyeshades to block out more light.
  • Spend at least an hour a day in direct sunlight.
  • Try to decrease the light in your bedroom gradually in the hours before you hit the hay;
  • Try to time your wake up with light;
  • Spend less time watching tv or playing/working on the computer in the evening, especially within an hour of your bed time.
  • Use a reddish light as a nightlight if you need to go to the washroom in the middle of the night.

I hope this helps with your insomnia. Please leave a comment and let us know if this was new information to you or if you knew about blue light and insomnia already.

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  • M.G. said,

    Thank you for this post. I learned something new.

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