A large body of scientific research shows that exposure to blue light emitted by electronic devices at night plays havoc with our circadian rhythm.
The circadian rhythm, also known as the body clock, is the 24-hour cycle common to all living beings that determines when we sleep and when we wake. This biological process is highly sensitive to, and regulated by, external cues in the local environment, including light and temperature.
Scientists have found that exposure to this artificial blue light in the evening suppresses your body’s natural melatonin secretion and triggers your body to produce more daytime hormones like cortisol. In other words, your body is being tricked into thinking it’s still daytime by the liquid crystal display screens in the palm of your hand.
“But I’m on the laptop at night and look at my phone just before I go to bed and don’t have trouble getting to sleep,” you say.
What you may not realise is that even though you can fall asleep quickly, exposure to this blue light can severely reduce the quality of your sleep, leaving you to wake up tired.
Dr. Michael Breus, known as “America’s Sleep Doctor” says we all need to seriously rethink our understanding of light and its effect on human health.
"We live in a culture where electricity and artificial light is everywhere - inexpensive and always available in seemingly endless supply. So it’s absolutely necessary that we stay educated and aware of all of light’s possible effects on our brains and bodies. Only then can we minimize its dangers and risks to our health."
So now that you’re aware of the problem, what can you do to solve it?
Avoid using your phone and computer in the hours leading up to bed.
But in this day and age, how many of us are realistically going to do that?
Consumer electronics giants such as Apple are finally catching on to the dangers its devices have been creating and are working to address the problem. Last year they introduced the Night Shift mode for its iOS operating system which automatically reduces the blue wavelengths from screen displays, replacing them with warmer more orange colours.
Computer screen apps like f.lux can also reduce brightness levels on your laptop and desktop.
But neither of these options takes out all the blue light, and they do nothing to stop the blue light from your TV, nor from modern energy efficient home lighting.
One of the best solutions is to invest in a pair of special glasses.
Blue Light Blocking Glasses, commonly referred to as Blue Blockers or Computer Glasses, allow you to enjoy your electronic devices in the evening without disrupting your sleep. The special amber lenses filter out the blue wavelengths from the visible light spectrum while letting in all other safe light, leaving you free to watch TV, check your emails and update your Facebook status without affecting your sleep.
“The benefits of blue light blocking glasses are immense and varied,” says Dr. Joseph Mercola, a prominent physician and New York Times bestselling author.
Julia Rodriguez from Advanced Sleep Medicine Services in California says: “Blue light blocker glasses block a significant amount of light, reducing the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep at night.”
Christopher Colwell, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, says: “Anything that will decrease that blue light exposure at night will be helpful.”
Ultimately, whatever option works for you personally is the correct one.
Just remember, tonight, as the sun goes down and you reach for your phone, blue light has a dark side.
Blog contributor article by Tristan Swanwick