What is blue light? It’s visible light that has gotten a bad rap over the years, but generally speaking, it’s not harmful. It only becomes hazardous to a person’s health when there’s too much exposure to it. Blue light naturally comes from sunlight and its energy keeps us alert and energized throughout the day. This works well with the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which causes us to be active when it’s light out and resting when it’s not.
There have been articles touting the effects of blue light as a link to poor eye health or eye strain or dry eyes, leaving many people wondering, is blue light bad for your eyes? The answer is yes and no. Yes, too much blue light exposure can cause eye strain when looking at electronic screens for hours on end. However, there is no scientific evidence that indicates blue light itself causes harmful eye damage.
Since we are exposed to blue light naturally from sunlight and artificial sources, it’s important to be wary of how much we are absorbing by using UV light protection and limiting time spent on digital screens. But if it doesn’t cause damage to your vision, then why is blue light bad? Blue light is considered harmful because it suppresses the release of melatonin production and signals the mind to stay active.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps us feel sleepy. Without it, the brain thinks it’s normal to be awake. When we are exposed to too much blue light, especially after the sun goes down, it inhibits our ability to achieve consistent, quality sleep.
How Excessive Blue Light Exposure Prevents Quality Sleep
What’s the connection between blue light and sleep? Its interference with your natural circadian rhythm can prevent you from falling asleep right away or achieving a solid night of rest. For many, time spent on digital screens happens throughout the day and is amplified in the evening. The majority of Americans have multiple electronic devices and use them as a way to relax.
It’s normal to get home from work and turn on the TV, scroll through articles online, check social media profiles, and read books or listen to a podcast on a tablet, sometimes looking at more than one screen simultaneously. All of this screen activity increases light exposure that prohibits melatonin from being released and causes you to feel alert. Nielsen research shows that adults spend over 11 hours a day interacting with various forms of media.
Additionally, these various channels of communication can cause stress either directly or indirectly, making it extra difficult for you to fall asleep. This is heightened for those who face challenges quieting the mind already. The addition of overexposure to blue light only worsens the problem and creates a cyclical effect.
For example, a person who has trouble falling asleep may watch TV or check Instagram in an effort to doze off. But rather than serving as a relaxing, mindless activity, as intended, it has the reverse effect because blue light causes disruptions to the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
If the majority of people regularly consume hours of screen time per day, is blue light bad? The answer is yes, it is. It can limit your chance of getting a good night’s sleep. Reduced quality sleep then directly relates to other health problems and negative effects on the body. Although you may be used to getting poor sleep or receiving less than eight hours a night, it doesn’t mean this hasn’t had a detrimental effect on your health.
What Health Effects Are Caused by Lack of Sleep
Your overall health links back to the quality of your nutrition, hydration, exercise, and sleep. When one of these factors is off track, it can lead to health effects of all kinds. Lack of sleep can start with side effects like headaches, lack of focus, irritability, and mood swings. A continued pattern of sleep deprivation may result in depression, anxiety, obesity, and heart disease. The bottom line is that your body cannot function properly with adequate sleep.
Although you may be awake and going through the motions, your body is not at its strongest and may take on certain diseases or illnesses more quickly. The first thing a doctor recommends when you have a cold is to drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest. That’s because the body needs adequate nighttime sleep for restoration.
Poor sleep habits can also lead to insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea. These all are harmful and can lead to long-term associated health problems. For instance, sleep apnea is when a person stops and starts breathing repeatedly as they sleep. These constant disruptions throughout the night may cause headaches, insomnia, and daytime fatigue.
Sleep deprivation can be the trigger of health problems and the result of them as well. The regularity of your sleep pattern is telling of the state of your well-being. When your sleep hygiene begins to suffer, implement positive habits to get it back on track.
Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep
Everyone experiences a bad night’s sleep every now and then. Whether it’s due to stress or illness, jet lag or changes in lifestyle, not all nights result in a quality eight hours of sleep. However, if it becomes a pattern, then you must introduce ways to resume a healthy standard. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep at night, here are a few things you can try to achieve quality sleep.
Reduce Exposure to Blue Light
Since it’s already been established that blue light can keep you from becoming sleepy, it’s best to limit your screen time at night. Get in the habit of shutting down your electronics at least two hours before bed to allow the body to produce melatonin. And, leave your smartphone in another room to avoid the sound and light of notifications as you sleep.
Wearing Blue Wave Glasses helps to block 60% of blue light, if your regular routine involves watching TV or using a tablet. The benefits of blue light glasses include limiting the amount of exposure to blue light and allowing your body’s natural rhythm to stay the course.
Cool Off the Bedroom
A bedroom that’s too hot or stuffy is not optimal for a good night’s rest. An ideal sleeping temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees. Lower the thermostat before going to bed and use a fan to add circulation to the room to keep things cool. Also, ensure the room is dark and quiet.
To further regulate temperature, you can rely on the smart technology of the Pod, which allows you to customize the temperature of your mattress. It’s designed to work off sensors that adapt to your temperature preference as you sleep, keeping you sleeping cool and comfortably.
Start Exercising in the Evening
Introducing activity at night might seem counterproductive, but low-intensity exercise can help prepare you for sleep. According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, three-fourths of exercisers reported “very good” or “fairly good” sleep quality over a two-week period of time compared to a little over half of those who didn’t exercise.
Exercise gets the blood flowing and elevates your body’s core temperature, but then has a cooldown period where your body feels relaxed. Schedule exercise several hours before you go to bed. If you don’t always have time for a full workout, incorporate stretching, yoga poses, or a walk around the neighborhood as a good way to allow the body to start to unwind.
Minimize Stress with Meditation
It’s common for people to have trouble falling asleep due to stress. Even as they stop physical activity for the day, the mind continues to race. One way to help alleviate stress is through meditation. Johns Hopkins University researchers reviewed thousands of meditation studies and found 47 trials that met their criteria to illustrate how mindful meditation helps to alleviate stress disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
Meditation is the active practice of calming the mind and concentrating on your breathing. Start slowly by simply deepening your breath through exaggerated inhales and exhales, while sitting or lying down in a comfortable position. Guided meditation or sound therapy are helpful tools for those who are getting started.
Be Purposeful about Your Sleep Habits
There are several things that cause harmful effects to our sleep. Extensive exposure to blue light is only one of the contributing factors. With the increasing use of technology, it’s important to monitor how much it affects us. Take advantage of the at-home remedies available, in addition to using blue-light-blocking glasses to improve your quality of sleep.
By acknowledging what your body needs, you can change your sleep hygiene for the better and start seeing the effects right away. Implementing tips like limiting screen time and learning how to meditate could be key factors that help you get good sleep on a regular basis. Sleep efficiency and consistency are both measurements of how well you’re sleeping each night.
Get in tune with your sleep patterns and eliminate blue light exposure and other disruptions as much as possible. It takes getting rid of the bad and maximizing the good, starting with sleep, in order to improve your health and achieve a better sense of well-being.
Sources: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/should-you-be-worried-about-blue-light; https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/5-facts-about-sleep-and-exercise; https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967