The conclusion of Daylight Saving time this past weekend means the night comes a little earlier. Logic may tell you that the longer and darker evenings will make falling asleep easier. However, even though the nights are longer we are also using smartphones, tablets and HDTV’s more and more in the 21st Century, particularly at night. Some scientists believe that Mr. Sandman has a new nemesis – the little blue light in all of these new-fangled devices.
What It Is
Naturally occurring blue light, a short wavelength in the light spectrum, is abundant in sunshine and hugely beneficial during the day when the majority of people need to be awake and alert. It’s been said to boost mood and increase attention span by stimulating sensors in the eye that then send signals to our internal clock. It also suppresses melatonin — a hormone produced by humans that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles — more than any other light wave. In fact, blue light is so efficient at suppressing melatonin that it’s often used to treat seasonal sleep disorders by mimicking the naturally occurring light of the sun. Here is where the problem surfaces — modern devices like high definition televisions, smartphones and tablets are massive producers of blue light. This blue light wreaks havoc on our circadian rhythms — our internal “body clock” that regulates 24-hour cycles, approximately — by basically tricking our brains into thinking it’s still daytime.
Quit Losing Sleep Over It
We know that blue light has immensely positive properties and the ability to manufacture this light into blue light-emitting diodes has quite literally changed our world. The invention by three Japanese scientists in the 1990’s was so innovative that it recently garnered a Nobel Prize in Physics. So how can someone suffering from insomnia enjoy the technology that this marvelous invention forged?
“If you can block blue light, you can actually create something called circadian darkness or virtual darkness” says Researcher Dan Pardi in an interview with Mercola. “What that means is that you can see, but your brain doesn’t think that it’s daytime; your brain thinks that it’s in darkness.”
Blue Light Blocking Glasses
One option is to wear glasses that are made to block blue light. Studies have shown that by wearing these amber-tinted glasses, you can produce almost as much melatonin as if it were pitch black, even in a fully lit room or while looking at a bright screen on your tv, phone or tablet.
There’s an App for That
A free program called f.lux may reduce sleep problems caused by blue light by automatically adjusting your screen throughout the day to adapt to your lighting situation. It can be installed on most computers, tablets and smartphones. During the day, the screen mimics sunlight, and in the evening becomes warmer.
There’s still some debate on just how much blue light waves affect your circadian rhythm, and there’s also a strong argument that elevated brain activity from technology use is more of a sleep-depriver than the lights themselves. As for me, I’m willing to risk losing a little sleep in order to play a late night game of Candy Crush, but for those folks that struggle with insomnia, reducing your evening exposure to blue light may be worth checking out.