Blue light is messing with your sleep – but there’s an app for that!
18 Sep 2020
We all know that electronics in the bedroom aren’t a great idea if you’re trying to improve your sleep. Now, however, scientists can pinpoint exactly why that is. As it turns out, certain cells in our eyes are so affected by artificial light they reset our internal clocks! Yep, they actually mess with your circadian rhythm. All thanks to what is called blue light.
The science-y bit on blue light
Your retina sits at the back of your eyes. It contains thousands of light-sensitive cells that operate like the pixels in your digital camera. When they’re exposed to light, they create a protein called melanopsin. It plays an important role in synchronising our internal clock. When the light is too bright and ongoing, this uptick in melanopsin suppresses our melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep.
Then there’s the blue light factor. While bright sunlight would certainly make it harder to get some shut-eye, blue light – the type of light emitted by electronics – is worse. This is because it’s got a short wavelength proven to affect your melatonin more than any other type of light. So, if it’s the middle of the night and you’re struggling to get to sleep but still scrolling through social media on your phone, you’re not likely to start to feel drowsy. If anything, it’s a stimulant! Aside from keeping you up, exposure to too much blue light before bed has another negative effect. Any sleep you might eventually get will involve less REM sleep, the kind you need to wake feeling truly rested.
Red, she said
Many sleep specialists will tell you it’s best to ban all electronics from the bedroom. While this is ideal, not everybody’s going to really stick to it. After all, isn’t lying in bed zoning out with a Netflix series marathon the best bit about a long, stressful day? However, you could consider a curfew. To help your body produce more melatonin, switch off all electronics at least an hour or two before bedtime. You could also try a clever hack. Instead of using energy-saving bulbs in the bedroom (these are typically blue) opt for dim red ones. Red lights have a different wavelength to blue ones and have less of a suppressive effect on your melatonin.
Another way to dim blue light exposure? Download a free app like f.lux to your laptop and phone. F.lux is the most popular blue light-beating app. It automatically tints the screen of your device to a red glow less likely to mess with your sleep pattern. You can also customise it so that it switches on at a time of your choosing.
Still not sleeping?
Once you’ve lessened your exposure to blue light before bedtime you should get to enjoy a better quality of deep, restorative sleep. However, if you’re making all the right moves and still struggling to nod off or wake up feeling tired, it’s time to get expert advice.
Making an appointment to chat with a highly-skilled doctor specialising in sleep is always worth it. They’ll be able to assess your situation and run a number of tests, including a sleep study. This way, they can diagnose any underlying condition that could be affecting your ability to sleep, be it anxiety or obstructive sleep apnea. They’ll also be able to put you a custom treatment plan to dramatically improve the quality of your sleep. At the end of the day, there are many pillars of good health. But they all rest on a foundation of good quality sleep. So, don’t play around with your health – make the call to improve your pillow time today and get to enjoy a lifetime of dreamy, deeply restorative sleep.