Blue Light at Night: How It Affects Sleep and What You Can Do About It
Did you know that 66 percent of Americans sleep with their phones at night? How about that 73.4 percent of people also use their phones while on the toilet, and 44% then put that same phone in their mouth...?
Ugh. We're addicted to our phones. It's a gruesome reality. However, what does that have to do with sleep?
Your phone emits what's called blue light.
That's not the only source of blue light in your life, but we'll talk about that later. If you struggle with sleep like 70 million other Americans, it's important to know that blue light at night can impact your sleep in massive ways. Even if sleeping isn't a problem for you, it's important to be aware of the impact of blue light on your circadian rhythms.
Keep reading, and we'll dive into what you need to know about how this pesky light can impact your sleep quality.
What Is Blue Light?
Let's talk about light. Photons are bundles of electromagnetic radiation, and they carry a certain amount of energy. These photons are what make up light.
Electromagnetic energy surrounds us, everywhere, all the time. It can travel around us and through us in waves. These waves consist of different lengths, and some of them we can see, while others we can't.
You may have heard of some of these waves. For example, microwaves, ultraviolet (UV) waves, and X-rays. A small amount of these waves are "visible light." That means they can be seen by the human eye. Blue light is on the spectrum of electromagnetic waves that we can see.
What Emits Blue Light?
We already talked about the fact that your phone emits blue light; however, there are other sources of this type of light in your life. In actuality, blue light is everywhere.
Why is the sky blue? It seems like a silly question when children ask it, but the reality is that it's filled with blue light, and our ability to recognize this lies at the core of our existence on the planet.
These electromagnet waves come from the sun, and when they collide with air molecules, it causes blue light to scatter. This causes the blue color we perceive in the sky.
However, there are both natural and artificial sources of blue light. Natural blue light comes into play each morning when the sun rises. When exposed to this light, it regulates your circadian rhythms. When it goes away at dusk, your brain knows it's time to sleep.
The problem is that, thanks to modern technology, you're exposed to artificial blue light sources after the sun goes down.
Artificial sources of blue light include:
- LED lights
- Computer screens
- Fluorescent lights
- Video game consoles
- Refrigerator lights
- E-readers (excluding black-and-white devices like the Kindle Paperwhite)
How Does Blue Light Impact Sleep?
We've mentioned your circadian rhythm a couple of times now. For those just now tuning in, your circadian rhythm is a 24-hour hormonal cycle that regulates, well...all the essential functions of your body.
For sleep, THE most important factor in this cycle is light. Typically, your circadian rhythm would get regulated because of sunrise and sunset. However, when we add artificial sources of blue light, your body can get confused.
Every type of light has the potential to impact this rhythm; however, if you're looking to point fingers, BLUE LIGHT IS GUILTY. It has the largest impact, and just like a musician playing the blues can set a good or bad rhythm, blue light is ultimately the light that is responsible for setting your circadian rhythm.
This is because blue light (i.e. "daylight") suppresses the release of melatonin in your body. Melatonin is the hormone that helps you feel sleepy so that you can curl up and snooze like a grizzly.
This should make sense: we didn't evolve to sleep during the day, after all.
When you don't get enough melatonin naturally, or when it's artificially suppressed, it can make getting to sleep and staying asleep a challenge.
The majority of your exposure to this light does come from the sun. During daylight hours, it helps you feel more alert, and improves your physical reaction times, attention, and mood. When you're exposed to blue light at the right time, it sets you up for success during the day and sleep during the night. Who doesn't want that?
Unfortunately, thanks to the artificial sources that surround us, we're exposed to blue light for far longer than is healthy. When our eyes process this electric light in the evening, it sends the same signals: "Stay alert! Don't sleep! It's daytime and we need to go on the hunt."
How Can You Reduce the Impact of Blue Light at Night
In today's world, we're constantly swimming in blue light. Check your text messages, and you've just been exposed. During the day, this is a positive thing and can keep us from falling asleep at our desks.
However, when you just want to sleep, and you're wide awake, it's a problem. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help reduce the impact of blue light.
Turn Off Electronics Two to Three Hours Before Bed
For the 66 percent of Americans who sleep with their phones at night, this one might feel impossible. However, turning off your electronics for a few hours might be the single most impactful thing you can do to engineer great sleep. By getting away from blue light, your brain can get away from the hustle and bustle of life.
(As a bonus, it also helps you avoid calls and texts from people you don't want to deal with. I'm looking at you, telemarketers.)
If two to three hours before bed isn't possible, try for an hour.
We know that when you're playing games or reading on your phone, it's easy to get lost and forget the time. Tough luck. Man wasn't designed to be a slave to electronic devices, and it pays dividends to be vigilant about this.
However, if turning off your electronics really isn't an option, there are a few other things to consider.
Blue Light Glasses
Blue light-blocking glasses reduce the amount of blue light your eyes perceive and your brain processes. This helps maintain your circadian rhythm, so you can sleep the way nature intended.
However, it's important to remember that not all blue light glasses are created equal. It's important to check the color of the lenses.
Clear lenses will block around 40 percent of blue light. Yellow lenses block around 75 percent.
These are okay numbers, but they're not the best. In contrast, Hibernate Blue Light-Blocking Glasses have dark orange lenses that block 99 percent of blue light.
Blue light-blocking glasses are great during the evening, but they can be great during the day as well. Focused blue light from your electronics can cause eye strain and headaches (something familiar to everyone who works at a computer all day).
So, investing in a good pair of blue light-blocking glasses can improve your health, mood, and productivity in more ways than just by giving you legendary sleep.
Use Features on Your Devices
As phones are getting smarter and developers are considering consumer concerns and health, they're implementing features that help. Phones, computers, and even newer TVs are implementing blue light filters that you can switch on.
This is great when you want to stay up to watch the NBA Finals or a Canelo pay-per-view, but need to get to bed afterward for a hard day's work. While the adrenaline rush from a win might keep you awake, blue light won't.
Even if your device doesn't have a blue light feature, most devices will allow you to dim the screen. Check your apps and phone to see if they have dark mode or night mode. Once you find those features, use your dimmer, and when you can, your blue light shields.
Check Your Lights
What type of lights are you using in your bedroom or bathroom? Fluorescents, LED, and CFL bulbs can all expose you to blue light. Alarm clocks are a typical culprit, and research has shown that even these tiny blinking lights can inhibit melatonin production.
However, companies are developing products that don't emit blue light. It's worth considering installing these lightbulbs in your bedroom and other rooms that you regularly spend time in before bed.
Use a Red Light
Do you need to sleep with a light? Or, at the very least, a night light? We certainly don't recommend it.
But if you're stubborn, look for a red light. Red light has the lowest level of impact on your circadian rhythms.
Use Black Out Curtains or a Sleeping Mask
If you need to go to bed before the sun sets, it can be a challenge to get away from the blue light that's keeping you awake. Especially if your night is everyone else's morning (a big thank you to the third shifters who work while the world snoozes).
In these circumstances, you're not at a complete loss. You can use a sleeping mask or black-out curtains to help reduce the impact of blue light.
Don't Let Blue Light at Night Keep You From Dreaming
Blue light at night can have a significant impact on your circadian rhythms. However, the good news is that there are steps you can take to help reduce that impact, including turning off your devices, wearing blue light-blocking glasses, and changing your lightbulbs.
Are you ready to hit the sheets and sleep well? Visit our store and let us help you hibernate like a grizzly when you head to bed.