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The Ultimate Guide To How Blue Light Affects Sleep

January 25, 2022 7 min read

Image of a apple computer showing how blue light affects sleep

Everything you need to know about the Effect of Blue Light From Our Devices and How Blue Light Affects Sleep and your health

Did you know:

A Harvard sleep study found we may be paying a price for basking in all that light. At night, light throws the body's biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack. Sleep suffers. Worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Image of person holding iphone how blue light affects sleep

Blue light and consumption of all forms of devices can be a never-ending hole. The more blue light we are subjected too the less we sleep the less we sleep the more tired and anxious we become and what do we turn to to sooth? That's right blue light devices it can turn into a self fulfilling cycle. Ironically I sit writing this in front of a computer at 10pm. Blue light effects everyone.

Research shows how blue light adversely effects your eye health

Research indicates an adverse effect on sleep and eye health caused by blue light, yet many studies are concluded with the need for more in-depth research. Discussions about blue light's impact on our health and well-being are well-grounded in the research studies; however, you will maintain your sleep quality by regulating your circadian rhythm.

The above statement might seem like a mouthful but no more than the amount of research conducted on blue light and its effect on the quality of our sleep and overall health.

 

The discovery of electricity changed our world, giving us a tool to turn night into day. Still, our world changed with the introduction of the Internet and blue-light emitting gadgets that adversely affect our circadian rhythm.

 

What further added to the dangers of blue light was the switch away from incandescent light bulbs to our current energy-saving lighting.

The dangers associated with exposure to blue light need to be clearly understood. Blue light is part of the visible spectrum produced by sunlight, and exposure to sunlight is not all bad, just like exposure to blue light is not all bad.

 

Research studies indicate the danger of excessive exposure to blue light beyond daylight hours, which brings us back to the age-old sticking point of "everything in moderation ." Here are some benefits of blue light:

family relaxing under African blankets at the beach

Benefits of Blue light used at the right time can be beneficial to your health

  • Blue light is a natural stimulant that helps to boost alertness, improve mood, and stimulate memory.
  • Sunlight which contains blue light helps maintain eye health in children but only at certain levels. This was confirmed by a study conducted by the University of Sydney, where it was noted that children exposed to sunlight regularly were less likely to develop myopia.
  • Exposure to blue light during the day helps regulate your circadian rhythm allowing for a better quality of sleep at night.

Blue light helps regulate melatonin production by suppressing it when exposed to sunlight. Toward dusk, melatonin production is decreased or suppressed. You will begin feeling sleepy as the evening draws on; however, artificial blue light retards this natural process that affects your body's internal systems and keeps sleep at bay. 

outside environment how blue light affects sleep

A controversial study aimed at challenging the common stance that blue light does affect your sleep

An otherwise controversial issue relating to a study conducted by the University of Manchester in the U.K. challenged the notice that blue light affects sleep. Mice were used as the study subjects and were exposed to different hues of light but all at the same intensity. 

 

The study found that the mice were more affected by yellow light than other hues. They concluded that warmer hues like yellow mimic daylight while cooler hues like blue mimic twilight. The study results were explained by Doctor Cathy Goldstein, a sleep specialist at Michigan Medicine. 

 

 

Mice, nocturnal rodents, have a different circadian rhythm to humans, and as has been concluded in many animal studies, the results do not always relate to human behavior. Another critical aspect of the study revealed that the researchers concentrated on the cones in the animals' eyes which detect color instead of melanopsin which sense light and is responsible for triggers to secrete melatonin. The light intensity was also kept at levels below that of everyday electronic devices. Doctor Goldstein found the study exaggerated the results based on nocturnal rodents. 

 

From an outsider's perspective, the rational explanation of the mice's behavior being nocturnal animals is that they will naturally react differently to different hues of light. The results of the study prove this point. Mice sleep during the daytime and become sleepy when exposed to yellow light, whereas blue light prompts regular mice activity. 

Light spectrum various colors how blue light affects sleep

Lets get to the juicy part, How Blue light affects your sleep

Each color that makes up the visible spectrum colors has different wavelengths, and blue light has a short wavelength. Electronic devices and fluorescent light bulbs have the highest concentration of blue light among all the artificial light sources.

 

Blue light is transmitted to your brain through the melanopsin receptors behind your retina, which signal your brain to suppress melatonin secretion.

 

Melatonin is the hormone that makes you feel sleepy and is central to controlling your circadian rhythm. Exposure to blue light after sunset will make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep because normal melatonin secretion is disrupted, and the roll-on effect is a disruption of your circadian rhythm. 

women shunning away blue ligh how blue light affects sleep

Health issues related to blue light and how you can improve your sleep today

Quality sleep is essential to maintaining good physical and mental health. The different sleep cycles allow the body to rest, repair damaged tissue, and focus on fighting any infections. Here are some health concerns that relate to overexposure to blue light:

  • Computer screens and other digital devices cause eye strain. Our eyes become dry and sore because we blink less, the distance between our eyes and the screen that we are constantly focused on causes blurry vision. Excessive screen time and exposure to blue light can lead to macular degeneration, a non-reversible loss of vision that leads to blindness. To add, your prolonged posture in front of a digital screen can lead to unnecessary aches and pains.
  • Harvard study found a connection to diabetes and possibly obesity that altered the circadian rhythm of ten study participants, which showed an increase in blood sugar levels to a prediabetic state and a decrease in leptin, a hormone that makes people feel full after a meal. Further Harvard studies show that exposure to light as low as 8 lux affects our circadian rhythm. Reduced sleep increases the risk of depression, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems.
  • Exposure to blue light disrupts sleep and without sufficient deep sleep (slow-wave sleep), your immune system becomes compromised. A lack of deep sleep leads to migraines, mood disorders, heart disease, and obesity. The risk of dementia, Alzheimer's disease, high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks, and Type 2 diabetes are significantly increased.

There are profound health implications associated with sleep disruption. Although all artificial light sources may interrupt our sleep, blue light has the most impact of all the different hues or colors on our circadian rhythm.

Managing Blue light consumption can be difficult in todays busy schedules but not impossible

Finding the sources of bluelight

 

There are several ways to control or manage excessive exposure to blue light that we are exposed to daily. Familiar sources of blue light include:

  • Fluorescent lights.
  • LED lights.
  • Smartphones.
  • Television.
  • Computer screens.
  • Tables.
  • E-readers.
  • Video game consoles.
Man watching tv with blue light glowing how blue light affects sleep

Managing Blue light consumption can be difficult in todays busy schedules but not impossible

Here are some ways to reduce exposure to blue light:

  • Dim household lights and switch off electronic devices at least two to three hours before your bedtime. This should be a nightly ritual in your home.
  • During your screen time, you can try wearing blue-light-blocking glasses, so your melatonin secretion is not interfered with.
  • Change your bedside lamp to a red or orange lamp or light if you like reading in bed.
  • Use the night mode on your electronic devices to reduce blue light emission.
  • Install a blue light reduction app on your devices.
  • Besides changing your bedside lamp, your sleep environment must be dark, calm, quiet, and the right temperature. Have a strict bedtime and wake-up time that allows you to get 8 to 9 hours of sleep every night. 

Studies have found that E-readers disrupt sleep way more than conventional paper books do. This is directly caused by the emission of blue light from the device. E-readers reduce the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) and deep sleep, which is necessary for the brain's memory consolidation processes.

 

Melatonin requires about a two-hour window of secretion to make us sleepy, but people differ.

Although blue light has been identified as a melatonin suppressant, there are no real hard and fast rules universally applied to everyone. Living a healthy lifestyle with moderate exposure to blue light after dark will not necessarily result in adverse health conditions developing. Having said this, paying attention to your health means paying attention to your sleep pattern, which should not be compromised even if you feel you can do less sleep.  

How blue light affects sleep. The studies are in. blue light disrupts our circadian rhythm.

Multiple studies point to blue light being the cause of melatonin suppression which affects our circadian rhythm or natural sleep pattern.

 

Adults need 8 to 9 hours of sleep in a 24-hour cycle, and children need 12 to 13 hours of sleep in the same cycle. Exposure to blue light is perhaps the leading cause of inadequate or restless sleep for many people who lie in bed engaged in social media or other online activities like reading E-Books. 

 

Sleep is essential to good health, but sadly, the world is flooded with digital devices and energy-saving lighting, which emit intense blue light. So it's no wonder that many people have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep for the required time. 

 

To this end, education is vital to maintaining sound health, and it begins with creating a healthy daytime routine that includes exercise, diet, and sunlight. In contrast, your sleep routine should consist of a wind-down period with minimal to no exposure to blue light.

women sitting on bed under a Basotho blanket drinking coffee

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