Can contribute to digital eye strain
Digital eye strain is a condition is which your eyesight becomes weaker, you can experience squinting (and in return, headaches) and eye twitches.
Digital eye strain can occur when you spend too much time staring at a blue light screen. If you mostly work from a computer, laptop or smartphone, then reducing your intake of blue light might be difficult.
If this applies to you, then the most important thing to note is to avoid screens as much as possible once you have finished working. If you continue to expose yourself to blue light further into the evening as well as for most of the day, your eyes will become weaker and weaker.
As a result, your alertness will remain at high levels and you will find it much, much harder to unwind and fall asleep.
Can suppress the production of melatonin
Our bodies work on a clock known as the ‘circadian rhythm’ which functions according to when it is light or dark outside. Your body knows when it’s light, you should be awake and when it’s dark, you should be asleep.
However when light that is not sunlight is introduced into our day (or night), our body clock is thrown out of balance. When artificial light (especially blue light) is viewed at night, our body and minds become more awake because it is registered as daytime.
This means that our bodies stop or lessen the production of melatonin (a hormone that regulates our sleep), which makes us less tired and more likely to struggle to fall asleep.
Can lead to depression
One particularly bad side effect of not getting enough sleep is depression. People who struggle to get a good quantity or quality of sleep on a daily basis are more likely to develop depression and anxiety.
And the way to avoid this can even come down to your light exposure before bed. Stephen Lockley, a sleep researcher at Harvard University, said, “Light at night is part of the reason so many people don’t get enough sleep and researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.”
Can lead to high blood sugar levels and/or diabetes
Over the last decade, health issues like high blood sugar levels and diabetes have been on the rise, and some sleep researchers believe that it has a connection to blue light and its effect on our metabolism.
In a study, when adults were exposed to blue light while eating, their results showed a higher level of glucose as well as a slower metabolism after eating, compared with adults who weren’t exposed to the light whilst they ate.
One scientist involved in the study said, “Our findings show that insulin was unable to acutely bring glucose levels back to a baseline level following a meal with bright light exposure in the evening. The results of this study emphasize that our lighting environment impacts our health outcomes.”
From such findings, we can conclude that if people are often exposed to blue light and are slowing down their metabolism, over time they will gain weight and could even inherit serious health issues such as high blood sugar levels and diabetes.
Impact of light on sleeping patterns
As mentioned earlier, our bodies are built to run on a cardician rhythm. This rhythm helps us to understand when it is time to wake up (due to the light outside) and when it is time for us to go to sleep (when it is dark outside).
Blue light is said to be extremely harmful for the way we sleep, as it can very much interfere with our sleeping patterns, and in fact, it can worsen our quality of sleep by almost twice as much as any other form of light. And it also suppresses our production of melatonin by twice the amount, too.
If you experience this high level of sleep disruption on a regular basis, it can eventually lead to severe health and wellbeing problems such as obesity, depression, cardiovascular disease, heart problems, a weakened immune system, a slower metabolism and much more.
Research has shown that exposure to blue light later into the evening can not only make you feel less tired and more likely to stay up late, but it can also mean you stay asleep for less time when you do eventually go to bed. It can mean you wake up frequently throughout the night which of course will lead to irritability, lethargy and tiredness throughout the next day.
On average, it is said that exposure to blue light at night can reduce the amount of quality sleep for an individual by around 16 minutes due to the suppression of melatonin. Not only does less melatonin keep you awake, it also means you will keep waking.
This can be because with less melatonin at night, your body’s natural mechanisms will be disturbed. Issues include the ability to keep your body at an optimum temperature and ff you become too hot or too cold, of course your sleep will be interrupted as you wake up to try to fix the issue.
In fact, research shows that on average you will wake up 6.7 times during the night after exposure to blue light, compared to 4.5 times after exposure to red light. And if you have been using a particularly strong source of blue light, you could wake up around 7.6 times during the course of your sleep.
The result of such poor and disturbed sleep can mean that the quality and quantity of sleep you are getting is nowhere near enough to keep your cognitive functions, health or wellbeing where it needs to be.
Blue light is neither good nor bad, but what can make it bad is that amount of time we spend exposing ourselves to it. When we know how to manage our light exposure in the right way, it can actually help us to be more productive, more motivated, have more energy, and more inclined to get a good night’s sleep.
Here are some of the ways you can work on ensuring that you are using blue light in the correct way:
Avoid it at night time
As discussed above, blue light at night can suppress melanin production and make you more awake rather than more sleepy. It is best to avoid blue light (so the likes of TV, screens of laptops, computers, tablets and smartphones) at least 2 hours before you are due to go to sleep.
This will go a long way to assisting your body’s natural clock and circadian rhythm to work optimally. You will then be able to unwind and relax your mind and body, feel sleepier and more tired and therefore fall asleep easier and faster when you do go to bed.
Utilise it in the morning
Researchers have proven that even as little as 30 minutes exposure to blue light in the morning will help to wake you up, keep you alert and give you more energy to carry out the necessary tasks of your day. You can use it naturally by eating breakfast or sipping your morning coffee by a big window which lets the sunlight in, or even outside if you can.
Take carotenoid supplements
Carotenoid supplements can be taken to help your eyes block out some of the exposure to blue light. These supplements work to help prevent issues such as digital eye strain or macular degeneration, and help to keep your eyes focused if you tend to work on a computer for extended periods of time. These supplements simply help to block out blue light when it is deemed necessary.
Use targeted light bulbs
LED energy efficient light bulbs are one of the best type of bulbs to use because many of them are designed with your cardician rhythm in mind. This means that they help to lessen the harmful effects of blue light at night time, whilst using the positive effects of blue light during the day.
You can buy ‘night time’ specific bulbs for your bedroom and ‘day time’ specific bulbs for your office, living room or kitchen.
Other ways to get melatonin
When we don’t have a cardician rhythm that is in balance, we produce much less of the melatonin hormone that normally helps us to regulate sleep and wakefulness. When we have a lack of melatonin in our bodies, our sleep instantly suffers in both quality and quantity.
You can take melatonin supplements to increase the production of the important hormone in your system, but there are also other natural ways you can help push your body into generating the level of melatonin you need to get a good night’s sleep. These include:
1. Using lavender
Lavender promotes a restful and relaxed state for your body and mind, and also promotes the production and generation of the melatonin hormone. You can buy tons of lavender items such as lavender pillow spray, air spray, sleeping balm, essential oils, lavender tea or lavender bath salts which all, if used before bedtime, can help you to unwind and get a better and more plentiful night’s sleep.
2. Eating melatonin snacks
There are several foods that are high in melatonin and can help to heighten your bodies melatonin levels if you consume them. These include fruits and vegetables like goji berries, cranberries, pomegranate, grapes, pineapple, bananas, asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes and olives. As well as nuts, seeds and grains such as walnuts, peanuts, almonds, flax seeds and rolled oats.
3. Being exposed to sunshine
Getting out into the daylight around noon each day is really, really important. Even spending 10 minutes outside in the early afternoon can mean that your melatonin levels remain low during the day, so you stay more alert and awake. And it means that they can then be more plentiful in the evening when it is time to go to bed.
How to take advantage of blue light
Of course blue light can have its positive effects on our minds and bodies, so when you manage light correctly (as discussed above) and take advantage of its plus points (discussed below) then you should have no problem with blue light affecting your quality or quantity of sleep.
1. Use a lightbox
If you struggle to get enough blue light during the day, because maybe you work nights or do shift work at strange hours, then you need to somehow expose yourself to blue light in other ways.
Researchers and sleep professionals suggest investing in a 10,000 Lux Energy Light Box, which you can use in the morning or when it is time for you to get up, so that you become more alert and more awake when you need to be.
2. Use it to stimulate alertness
It has been noted that exposure to blue light in the morning can improve alertness for the rest of the day. So using it to stimulate your mind when you first get up, and in the early afternoon can help to keep you more awake and can assist in keeping you awake without the feeling lethargic as the day goes on.
3. Use it to improve productivity
Exposure to blue light during the day can improve cognitive function and productivity for the rest of the day. It can help you to concentrate for longer which means you can get tasks completed more quickly, with more efficiency and with more accuracy.
With more energy and more brain power, you will become way more productive whether it be for work, school, sporting activities or daily errands.
Optimize your environment
Another way you can use blue light to your advantage is by using it to optimize your environment. You could perhaps think about using a red or orange toned light bulb in the lamps or lights in your bedroom, rather than harsh bright blue light that will make you more alert and awake when you should be winding down and relaxing.
Your bedroom needs to be a cosy place of relaxation, so make sure it is just that, keep it calm rather than bright and brash which is more likely to keep you awake. If you have an alarm clock which lets off blue light, even this small amount of light exposure can and will affect your sleep. So ditch the alarm clock, too!
In conclusion, if you are struggling to get a decent night’s sleep on a regular basis and it is because of your exposure to blue light, then it is really important to build consistent habits and manage your exposure to such light in a better way.
This includes avoiding screens for at least 2 hours prior to bedtime, and at the same time exposing yourself to sunlight and blue light throughout the day to keep melatonin levels low during the day and higher during the night.
People often get this wrong by scrolling through their phones until they fall asleep, watching TV to fall asleep or having incorrect lighting in their bedrooms. The best way to overcome these issues and get a better night sleep will be to get into a proper nighttime routine, incorporate hacks like lavender, mYou will find forms of blue light everywhere you go.
The biggest and most common form of blue light is the sun which, of course, we are exposed to every single day. But there are many other forms of blue light that are man made, and which can cause issues with our health and wellbeing if used in the wrong way.
These items have the light that blares from screens including the likes of LEDs, smartphones, laptops/computers, tablets and TVs. Although these items do let off only a very small percentage of blue light compared to that of the sun, the problem lies in the amount of time spent using such items, and the closeness in which they are used.
Using such items and exposing yourself to this type of blue light late in the evenings can have a huge affect on the quality and quantity of sleep that we get each night.
And we can probably all admit that we have spent the last hour before bed catching up on our favourite shows, or scrolling through news or social media on our smartphones. If this is something you catch yourself doing on a regular basis, then check out our article which explains why blue light before bedtime can be bad for your sleep.
Disadvantages of Blue Light & Sleep
There are a significant number of ways that the use of blue light at night time can have a negative effect on the way in which you sleep that night. Here are some of the ways blue light can be a disadvantage to your daily sleeping pattern:
Melatonin snacks and LED bulbs, and ensure you manage blue light to your advantage.