If you’ve been reading about the potentially harmful effects of too much screen time (either for you or your kids), you’ve likely come across the term “blue light” and wondered what this entails. Blue light is essentially a wave of light that usually stems from a digital device, like your cell phone or computer.
Blue light can also occur naturally, with sunlight for example. But the type of blue light that has gotten the most attention in recent years is the artificial kind, which comes from screens.
It’s no surprise that people are sleeping much less than we did in the past — this is principally because our sleep quality as a society has declined.
From insomnia and sleep apnea to snoring and general discomfort, there are many reasons why we have trouble falling asleep, but the one you may not be considering closely enough is the effects of blue light.
So, what exactly is so special about this “blue light” that makes it disrupt sleep?
1. It affects the body's melatonin production
The production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, is what helps you fall and stay asleep. Numerous studies have shown that blue light suppresses the body’s ability to produce melatonin at night more than any other type of light. Although the blue light from screens is a very small light source, it still has a significant effect on your sleep cycle. This is mainly because the brain perceives blue light through the same melatonin receptors that are behind your retina, so the light essentially gets right through to your brain.
2. It affects your circadian rhythm
Your circadian rhythm tells your body when to sleep and when to wake up. Any disruptions to this cycle will result in poor sleep quality, as you won’t get a full night’s rest. Because blue light can affect your melatonin levels while you sleep, this also means it can have an impact on your circadian rhythm as well. Without healthy levels of melatonin being produced as you sleep, your circadian rhythm will be thrown off balance.
3. It causes digital eye strain
Since we are exposed to so much blue light during our day-to-day routines, it’s normal to feel like your eyes are strained come nighttime. If your eyes ever feel sore or dry, or your vision is less clear than usual, these effects can be directly related to blue light exposure. Any discomfort you face at night — whether it’s digital eye strain or from another source — can greatly affect your ability to fall asleep.
How to lessen your exposure to blue light
Even if you have the comfiest organic mattress in the world, your sleep can still be disrupted by the effects of blue light. By striving to minimize your blue light exposure, you can take control of the consequences of this artificial light and still manage to get a healthy night’s rest.
One way to lessen your exposure to blue light is to put away your devices long before bed time. Some experts even recommend turning off your tablets, phone, and computer at least two hours before you want to fall asleep. While this may seem like a lot to ask (you have to set your alarm, after all!), it’s a good goal to keep in mind. The less screen time before bed, the better.
Another way to avoid blue light at night is to adjust your screen brightness and settings. If it’s possible to turn on “night mode” on your devices, you definitely should. Night filters on blue light devices are a great way to protect your eyes from digital strain, especially if you’re watching a movie in bed. This is because the light on “night mode” are of longer wavelengths, making them less impactful to melatonin production.
Avoiding blue light exposure is a holistic, health-minded way to ensure your sleep environment is set up for success. When it’s time to wind down at night, why not put the screens to bed and snuggle up with your organic cotton bedding?