Is Blue Light Destroying Your Sleep?
The topic of blue light from electronics has been trending and it’s time we dive into its facts and myths! In this article, we’re going to cover blue light basics, how it affects your health, and what you can do to protect yourself.
What is blue light?
Did you know that about one-third of all visible light is considered blue light (1)?
You may be surprised to learn that sunlight is the main source of blue light and being outdoors during daylight is where we get most of our exposure to it! Other significant sources of blue light include LED lighting and electronic devices such as computers, tablets, and smartphones (2).
Exposure to natural blue light (i.e. the sun!) is important for wellbeing, alertness, and a sharp brain, but constant, long-term exposure from electronics can be a real problem for us mamas and also our kids.
Blue Light & Your Health
We currently live in a society where we are on our electronics the entire day (is anyone else appalled when their phone reveals how many hours they have spent on it, on average, each day over the week?!
The typical American family has 5 or more electronic devices at home and is additionally exposed at work and school (3).
While the amount of blue light these devices emit is only a fraction of that in sunlight, the concern is in the amount of time people spend using these devices and how close the screens are to our faces (4).
Surprisingly, there is minimal evidence connecting blue light exposure from electronics to eye disease. However, it has been shown that cumulative long-term exposure may be responsible for damage to the retina and age-related macular degeneration (5). Children are more vulnerable than adults because their eyes absorb more blue light from digital devices.
Blue light has also been shown to have serious implications on sleep quality, both slowing the production of melatonin and disrupting circadian rhythms, our natural wake and sleep cycle (6). During the day, blue light wakes us up and stimulates us. But too much blue light exposure late at night from your phone, tablet, or computer can make it harder to get to sleep (7).
I tell clients that constant exposure to blue light is like telling your body that it’s high noon, 24/7. Your hormones are tricked and your body thinks it needs to be in “wake mode” most of the day. This can cause some major issues later on in the day when we’re supposed to be producing more of our sleep hormone, melatonin.
What can you do to protect yourself?
While blue-light-blocking glasses are being marketed with claims that they can stop eyestrain and discomfort and improve sleep quality, particularly when using computers and other digital devices, science doesn’t necessarily agree (8).
Overall, the most effective protection against blue light from electronics requires limiting the use of these devices, especially for our kids.
At a minimum, protect yourself at night by avoiding these screens two to three hours before bed. Choose to read a book instead of your phone and use dim red lights for night lights as red light is less likely to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin. (9). If you cannot completely avoid your devices at night, utilize nighttime settings on your electronics to minimize blue light exposure in the evenings (10). You can use a salt lamp for soft red light.
Lastly, expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day! This will boost your ability to sleep at night, as well as your mood and alertness during daylight! I recommend that my clients take a 5-10 minute sun bath and electronics break at 10 am and 2 pm- the exact times most of us want another cup of coffee or something sweet. Really, our batteries just need a bit of recharging. And the sun is the best way to recharge our batteries!
Get outside as often and as regularly as you can.
We know electronics are a necessary part of everyday life and they’re not going anywhere, anytime soon. Heck, I’m on my electronics as much as you are. I do try to work on my computer outside as often as possible to reduce the impact of screens on my hormones. With a fake Zoom background in place, no one even has to know that you’re working al fresco (though all of my people know I am!).
Research is still new as to the effects of blue light on our health so it’s very possible there may be long-term side effects on the health of our eyes and bodies we’ve yet to discover (11). Do your best to remain mindful of screen time, while ensuring you spend time in nature for sunlight, fresh air, and to support your overall health and wellness!