The Problems with Blue Light at Night

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I have written about the importance of sleep before and will continue to do so periodically as it is such an important issues. Not getting enough rest each night (less than 8 or 9 hours on a consistent basis) leads to immune system decline, brain fog, depression, obesity and diabetes, just to name a few. One common cause of sleep problems can be found in those screens we all spend so much time looking at. All screens (TV, computer, cell phone, etc) emit blue light, which inhibits our ability to fall asleep.

Blue light is also found naturally and is an indicator to the body that it is daytime. When we are outside we are exposed to blue light as well as vitamin D. This light suppresses melatonin and promotes alertness. Our bodies have the same response to the blue light emitted artificially indoors. This can be beneficial in an office, but is often detrimental to our health at home.

When the sun goes down, the pineal gland begins to produce melatonin in preparation for sleep (2-3 hours later). However, when we are watching TV or working on the computer this production is suppressed. This is especially true of teenagers who are extraordinarily sensitive to blue light. Light researcher, Mariana Figueiro, noted that teens suppressed more melatonin than adults with only one-tenth the exposure to blue light. In addition to regulating sleep, melatonin is a powerful antioxidant, and the Journal of American Medicine published an article linking low melatonin secretion and the onset of Type 2 Diabetes.

So what can we do?

The first answer, of course, is to go to bed earlier. Here are some other ideas:

  • Get at least 20 minutes of natural light a day to help regulate the circadian rhythm
  • Remove electronics from the bedroom
  • Turn off all screens at least 2 hours before bedtime. This will tell your body to begin producing melatonin.
  • Install flux, a free program that will automatically adjust the screen brightness based on the time of day.
  • Try wearing amber glasses, which block blue light, after dark. You can read more about this idea here.
  • Sleep in a very dark room. Many physicians recommend covering or removing clocks and other light sources as well as phones and computers from the bedroom.

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