Have you ever found yourself working, studying or even watching a movie on your computer screens for hours? You would stay up until way past your bedtime only to find out that you are wide awake when you try to dose off.
Many things can affect the quality of our sleep; however, the time we spend on our digital devices is one of the main factors that affect it. What is in our smartphones and laptops that keep us wide awake and alert?
The answer is blue light.
In this write-up, we will be discussing how the excessive exposure of blue effects our sleep and what overall health effects doe sit impart.
What is blue light, and what effect it has on us?
Contrary to the famous belief sunlight isn’t yellow, it’s blue. Yes, you read that, right! This blue hue of the sunlight is responsible for our day time alertness and helps us go about our day. Let me tell you how.
When the sun rises, it causes a rise in our blood pressure and tends to increase cortisol production, which is a steroid. At the same time, it creates a decrease in the melatonin expression in our bodies, and this melatonin is responsible for inducing sleepiness.
So, in one way or another blue light is responsible for regulating our sleep cycles which are known as the circadian rhythm.
How blue light affects our circadian rhythm?
The fact that blue light is responsible for maintaining melatonin in our bodies makes it a vital factor in controlling our circadian rhythm. Similarly, Circadian rhythm is the main factor in regulating our sleep and wake hours.
If there is any disruption in this cycle, it will directly affect our sleep. We will experience trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
The sun is not only the source of blue light, but what causes the real havoc is the blue light emitting from other human-made sources like digital devices and LEDs. These digital devices expose us to blue light at night time too, when we do not need it. Thus, this excessive exposure leads to more alertness and less sleep in the night time.
What will be the consequence? There will be a disturbance in our circadian rhythm, which will impact overall health issues.
So, there are two ways blue light affects our sleep. First, is the disruption in release of a sleep-inducing hormone (melatonin) and secondly by playing havoc in our circadian rhythm.
What is the expert's opinion?
According to current research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), usage of devices that emits blue lights can adversely affect our overall health.
Anne-Marie Chang, PhD, an associate neuroscientist in Brigham and women’s hospital says: “We found the body’s natural circadian rhythms were interrupted by the short-wavelength enriched light, otherwise known as blue light, from these electronic devices. Participants reading a light-emitting e-book took longer to fall asleep. It had reduced evening sleepiness, reduced melatonin secretion, later timing of their circadian clock, and reduced next-morning alertness.”
How to limit our blue light exposure?
As easy as it sounds, limiting blue light exposure is not a piece of cake.
Tired from work all day on our computer screens, we try to dose off as quickly as possible. But wait! Let’s check out our Facebook notifications and then straight to sleep. It’ll take five minutes.
No, it won’t take just five minutes, and we all know that. The more we spend time on our smartphone, the more we will be wide awake. What’s the reason? It’s the blue light emission from our cell phone.
This is the reason we need measures to limit blue light exposure as much as possible.
- We should put our digital devices away for at least two to three hours before bedtime. Since the pesky blue will keep us awake if we use these devices in our sleeping hours, it’s better to not to use them in such hours altogether.
- Adjusting our phone’s brightness and installing any blue light filtering app will help decrease the emission of blue light to a much extent.
- The bigger the screen of our digital devices, the more will be blue light exposure. Therefore, it is better to switch to devices with small screens.
- We can modify the lights we use at home. Warm lights do not affect our melatonin levels as much as bright lights do.
- Protective blue light blocking glasses are of great help in reducing the exposure of blue light. Other protective eye wears are also available like blue light protecting lenses and screens.