Poor sleep can be caused by electronic devices emitting blue light
We all have busy lives, these days more than ever. Mounting pressure to perform at work, to make the perfect meal and of course, general day-to-day stress. We are more connected and online than ever before. What does this mean for our bodies? As you read this, are you in bed? If so, are you are reading on an electronic device in your own peaceful domain? The bed was meant for tranquillity, for rest, rejuvenation, certain adult activities and most of all sleep but is now being used increasingly for other activities such as reading and communicating on electronic devices.
WHAT IS BLUE LIGHT?
It is the intense, short-wavelength blue light which is part of the visible light spectrum. Your body uses blue light from the sun to regulate your natural sleeping and waking cycles. This is known as your circadian rhythm. Blue light during the day, helps boost alertness, improve reaction times, elevate moods and increase the feeling of wellbeing.
Sleep and sleeping patterns are affected by blue light.
CAN WE HAVE TOO MUCH BLUE LIGHT?
Besides the natural source of blue light from the sun, there are now many other sources of blue light, from digital screens of TVs, computers, laptops, smart phones, tablets, electronic devices, fluorescent and LED lighting. Because of their wide-spread use and increasing popularity, we are gradually being exposed to more and more sources of blue light and for longer periods of time.
PROBLEM HAVING A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP?
Blue light emitted from these sources has an adverse effect on your body. Blue light tells your brain that it isn’t time to sleep and interrupts your body’s circadian rhythm. Too much exposure to blue light at night lowers the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep and thus a low level of melatonin disrupts the circadian rhythm. You may fall asleep, but how long will you stay asleep? What is the quality of your sleep like? Imagine waking up day after day feeling unrested, tired and having extreme lethargy. Waking up searching for a hit of caffeine, or your smoothie, just to gain some sort of energy. By having a good night’s sleep, your body is fully charged and ready for your next day. If you are well rested, you will be alert. When was the last time you had a really refreshing sleep?
WHAT OTHER HEALTH RISKS?
Because exposure to blue light at night light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, then lower melatonin levels keeps the level of metabolism of the body higher and deprives the body of time to repair itself and sleep. Exposure to blue light might explain the association with types of health problems including several types of cancer (breast, prostate), diabetes, heart disease, obesity and an increased risk of depression.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
We now know what the issue is, but what are you going to do about it? There is one ultimate solution: no devices in the bedroom. This means no television, no laptop, no tablet, no e-reader, no mobile or smartphone and no brightly lit clock. Imagine that! The temptation is gone. However, this is sometimes a little unrealistic, so another method of combating the blue light issue is to dim the lights as much as possible on these devices. If you have a night-light, try using red light, which has the least effect on your body clock.
Finally, you can always go for a walk during daylight, which will increase your ability to sleep, help with your mood and alertness during the day. It’s a win-win situation!
Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleep and thus a low level disrupts the circadian rhythm.
If you can’t bring yourself to get rid of these e-gadgets, then try to limit their use.
Dr Veli Solyali is a Chiropractor, Anatomist, Sleep Expert and Founder of Get Well Bedding, an Australian-owned boutique bedding company. He has been a lecturer at various Universities across Australia in Anatomy, Medical and Diagnostic Sciences and Surgical Anatomy. He is a regular contributor in the Australian media in the areas of Sleep, Health and Anatomy. Dr Solyali can be contacted through his website.