Effects of blue light on melatonin expression and it’s overall impact on the sleep cycle

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Did you know that according to research, prolonged blue light exposure can cause lower levels of melatonin expression in our bodies than any other kind of light? Although blue light is not an environmental hazard, it can cause sleep disruption and be a potential cause of some diseases.  

Before the invention of artificial lights, the sun was the only source of illumination, and our nights were usually dark. Our nights now are illuminated, and we can run our errands at night, too, which were only possible in daylight before. However, this nighttime illumination comes with a price.

In this article, we will have an overview of how blue light can affect our sleep and be a major cause in whacking out our circadian rhythm.

What is blue light, and how does it affects our mood?

During daylight hours, these blue lights are beneficial for us, while at night time they can cause us some serious problems. Blue lights are of certain wavelengths that, when exposed in day-time, can boost our mood and attention. However, at night, these blue lights can interfere in melatonin expression and result in sleep disruption and disorders, which can cause further health-related issues.

How can blue light affect our circadian rhythm?

Our body works on a specific circadian rhythm, which is our body’s basic wake, and the sleep cycle. Daylight is responsible for keeping this cycle in check. However, exposure of mistimed blue light can cause disruption in this cycle, which may have harmful effects on our health.

 Blue light causes a phase shift in circadian rhythm and schedules our sleep later and this result in more alertness at night hours. Being alert when we are supposed to sleep means fewer sleep hours, and fewer sleep hours means various health issues.

What is the role of melatonin in our sleep cycle, and how blue light affects it?

Light and melatonin combined have shown to affect our physiology and behaviors. Melatonin tends to induce sleepiness by reducing core body temperature. On the contrary, light exposure at night increases body temperature and promotes alertness. 

Research says that the suppression of melatonin release with light exposure is sensitive to short-wavelength, and blue light is one such light. The effect of blue light on melatonin expression is evident in people who spend more time viewing screens that emit it. 

The mammalian eye contains a photoreceptor called melanopsin. Short wavelength lights like blue light activate melanopsin, which in turn suppresses the expression of melatonin responsible for sleep induction.

What are the sources of blue light?

The harmful effects of blue lights on our overall health are so many, and so are its sources. Ever wondered why the more we use our smartphones, the more we stay awake at night?

 Now, suppose we start playing our gaming console at night, and we didn’t even realize that we are up way past our bedtime. Wow! Excitement and thrill haven’t let you dose off when its time. No, blue light emitting from the screen is the culprit to blame for your alertness past bedtime.

Some other examples of blue light sources are:

  • Televisions
  • Laptops
  • Fluorescent light bulbs
  • LED bulbs

What are the solutions to this blue light problem?

The effect of blue light on us if we spend more time viewing screens that emit it will be evident in our sleep cycle and overall health. More screen time means an open invitation to insomnia. 

The best solution to these problems arising due to blue light is to stop using artificial lights and gadgets emitting it altogether. However, ideally, this is not possible in today’s life. However, there are some other reasonable solutions available too.

  • We should stop the use of blue light-emitting gadgets an hour or two before bedtime. We can decrease screen brightness when using these gadgets is inevitable.
  • Investing in blue light blocking glasses is a good idea, and also they are widely available online.
  • There are many apps available on smartphones that would reduce the blue light emission without hindering the display much.
  • Red lights are the ones that have the least effect on circadian rhythm. We should consider using red light bulbs as a nightlight.
  • We can dim the lights in our surroundings to help our bodies express the level of melatonin more naturally.

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