You can’t sleep at night? For many people this is a huge problem. They lie in bed for a long time, maybe even hours trying to fall asleep. Even worse, most don’t feel rested when they wake up in the morning. What could be causing all this insomnia?
One possible answer is blue light. The body’s biological clock is highly influenced by light. Before the invention of artificial light, humans were exposed to light (via the sun) at roughly the same time every day. Today people are exposed to bright light all the way up to their bed time. As a result, their brains aren’t triggered to begin producing melatonin (and begin preparing for the body for sleep) at an appropriate time. While any type of light can throw your biological clock out of whack, blue light has been show to be the most powerful trigger. Unfortunately, laptops, desktops, e-readers, smart phones and many flat screen televisions emit large amounts of blue light.
One study had participants either read a book for four hours before bed or read from an iPad. They found that reading from an iPad “prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep, delays the circadian clock, suppresses levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, reduces the amount and delays the timing of REM sleep, and reduces alertness the following morning.” Even worse, other studies have found that working the night shift and exposure to light at night is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer an obesity.
The Positive Side of Blue Light
While blue light exposure at night is bad for you, it has the opposite effect during the day. A study compared the effects of lighting an office building with blue versus white light for four weeks each. Participants experience greater mood, alertness, productivity and less fatigue with the blue lighting. Blue light is even used to treat seasonal affective disorder. So, it’s not that blue light is bad, it’s just a matter of timing.
What Can You Do?
Try your best to limit your exposure to blue light 2-3 hours before going to bed. If you aren’t able to for whatever reason there are a few other options. If you like to read at night, the original Kindle is a much better option (and is a lot cheaper). You can turn down the brightness settings on your other electronic devices (if you can’t give up your iPad). There’s even a free computer program called f.lux that automatically dims your computer at night. Finally, you can purchase sunglasses that block blue light. Good luck!