Blue Light and Sleep

At one point in time, before the advent of the energy-efficient light bulbs and electronic devices (the TV was invented in 1929), the sun was the only source of blue light, which provides energy, focus and happy moods — the key to a productive daytime. But with modern conveniences came a disruption in what nature intended.

Energy-efficient light sources, TVs, tablets, cell phones, computer screens — you name it — are rushing blue light into our bodies, which would be fine if we wanted to stay awake 24/7, if that were even possible. But if we want a good night’s rejuvenating sleep, those modern conveniences militate against us.

Worse, those devices have been linked in some studies to modern diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, resulting in many ways from our disrupted sleep because of the constant blue light barrage.

Granted, we can wear blue light-blocking glasses at night, but that puts a yellow tint on everything we watch on TV or do on a computer or tablet.

The major problem is that blue light is meant for daytime activities, and absence of the sun at night is meant to plunge us into deep, replenishing sleep. Using modern conveniences disrupts our circadian rhythm, which is most cases should run about 24 hours, with 7 or 8 or more of those (for most of us) spent in splendid slumber.

How do we adjust to the beauty of modernity and still sleep soundly? That’s a good question, and other than wearing blue light-blocking glasses, it’s largely a matter of adjusting our schedules and focus. Turn off the TV and other electronic devices well before bedtime, at least two hours. Read a book with blue light-blocking glasses. Or use light sources that aren’t so full of blue light. Listen to soft music with the lights off — find something that works without the blue light stopping production of the sleep hormone, melatonin.

Obviously, modernity has its many benefits, but at the same time, it poses challenges to our body’s natural circadian rhythm. A lot of sleep issues can be addressed by our being smarter in our adherence to modern devices and life-styles, but if we need help or suspect a sleep disorder, we should seek professional advice and possibly treatment. Sleep is too important to be shortchanged.

 

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