Why Blue Light Is Messing With Your Sleep — And What to Do About It
Article At A Glance
Blue light is everywhere — it comes from the sun, electronic devices, and fluorescent and LED lights.
Blue light messes with your circadian rhythm by suppressing melatonin, the hormone that tells your brain when it’s time to sleep. It tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime.
In the morning, blue light can wake you up and help you power through your day, but too much exposure at night can affect your sleep.
Blue light overexposure also increases your risk of serious illnesses like heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes.
Protect yourself with blue-light blocking glasses, blackout curtains, light filter apps, carotenoid supplements, and red bulbs.
You know the feeling — you stay up until the early hours working in front of your laptop, or you scroll through your Instagram feed on your phone before turning off the light, and then… you just can’t fall asleep. You know you’re tired — you were yawning just a minute ago. So what’s going on? Blame it on the blue light emanating from your electronic devices like your computer, tablet, and phone.
What is blue light?
Blue light is everywhere. Just step outside and you’ll get a good dose of it from the sun. Blue light also comes from light emitting diodes (LEDs), used in energy-efficient bulbs and to illuminate TV, computer, tablet, and smartphone screens. Blue light has a short wavelength, so it produces more energy than lights with longer wavelengths, like red light, do.
Blue light can be a good thing. Exposure during the day wakes you up and makes you more alert, and can even improve your mood. Blue-light emitting goggles and panels are used to treat a number of issues such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), jet-lag, and premenstrual syndrome.
Blue light doesn’t just enter the body through the eyes — your skin absorbs it too. Hospitals use blue light to treat babies with jaundice — it helps get rid of the yellow pigment bilirubin in the blood.
Blue light and sleep
The problem is, newer artificial lights like LEDS and compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs don’t contain most of the infrafred, violet, and red light that’s found in sunlight, and instead increase the intensity of the blue light to a level that we aren’t evolved to handle. This is known as “junk light.”
You’re bombarded with junk light throughout the day and for much of the night — when you’re on your phone, working at your computer, or watching TV — and all this blue light exposure is ruining your sleep. Blue light messes with your circadian rhythm by suppressing melatonin — the hormone that tells your brain when it’s time to sleep. Blue light tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime.
Normally, the pineal gland — a pea-sized gland in the brain — releases melatonin a couple of hours before you typically go to bed. But blue light can mess with this process, which in turn makes you less sleepy. Blue light does this by stimulating a type of light sensor — called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) — in the retina of the eye. These sensors send light information to the circadian clock, telling it when it’s time for the body to sleep and to wake up.
A 2014 study found that people who read from a light-emitting device before bed took longer to fall asleep, slept less deeply, and were more alert than people who read a printed book.Reference Click here to see how Acupuncture can help with sleep issues!
Dr. Brittany Bowers
Chiropractic, Acupuncture, NAET
Nashville and White House, TN