When you’re doing all that you can to take care of your body – eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise, and reducing your stress levels, it’s important to not forgot about sleep. Sleep is also part of a healthy lifestyle – both quantity and quality. Studies, however, show that people are sleeping less. One of the reasons for this is the exposure to blue light at the wrong time of day.
Sunlight contains red, orange, yellow, green and blue light rays and many shades of each of these colors, depending on the energy and wavelength of the individual rays. Blue light has a shorter wavelength, and it is energizing and mood enhancing. When this light hits your eyes in the mornings, it sends signals to your brain telling you that it is time to wake up. This is controlled by melatonin production being turned off. Whereas, when the sun sets, you are not exposed to its blue light until sunrise again.
Unfortunately, you continue to be exposed to blue light even when it is dark outside. This is because of artificial lighting and technology (TV’s, computers, tablets, etc.) in your home. It tricks your brain into thinking that it is still daytime. It results in increasing your evening alertness, as well as changing your body’s biological clock (also referred to as the circadian rhythm) and hormones so that sleep is delayed. In fact, any artificial light exposure in the evening is an issue. Even dim lamps can emit enough blue light to disrupt your sleep rhythms!
So what steps can you take to avoid or reduce blue light exposure in the evening?
1. Avoid the use of technology at least two hours before bedtime.
This means not using your computer, tablet, smartphone, and television, for example (this is hard for me because I’m usually on my iPad or watching TV before I go to sleep). But these items all emit blue light, and prevent the production of melatonin, the latter which is needed to cause you to become sleepy. Try reading a book or spending time with your family before bedtime to avoid using technology.
2. If you absolutely have to use technology or to be in bright light in the evening, use blue-blocking glasses.
These can also be useful for evening and night shift workers. Be sure you buy them from a reputable supplier. Your optometrist can be an invaluable resource to make specific recommendations. You can also find them sold online through various outlets.
3. Maximize exposure to light during the day.
This does not mean sit in the sun all day, because this could potentially cause other serious problems such as skin cancer or damage to your eyes (cataracts and age-related macular degeneration are accelerated by too much blue light exposure). Instead, it appears that maximum daytime exposure results in lessening the effects of being exposed to light at night. Plan to take a walk outdoors over your lunch break at the same time every day. This same-day exposure to sunlight can aid your body’s internal clock.
In winter, or if you spend days at work with no exposure to natural light, be sure to use a light box that provides you with plenty of blue light. You can use it before you go to work, while you are eating your breakfast or applying your cosmetics, for example. If you sit at a desk, you can use a lightbox at work.
4. You can adjust the colors of your screens on your smartphones, computers, and tablets to warmer, shorter wavelengths.
Set it up so that it happens automatically every evening, and results in less to no exposure to blue light at this time.
5. Choose light bulbs that emit less blue light.
And emit more reddish or warmer hues.
6. During sleep, cover any lights on your alarm clock or other devices at night.
Use room-darkening shades to avoid exposure from streetlights or your neighbor’s lights. Wear a sleep mask.
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Obviously, it is difficult to survive in today’s world in total darkness. But hopefully, these tips can help you use a softer light before bedtime that will encourage a restful night.