It’s 2017. We all get in a lot of screen time. Maybe you’re a gaming warrior, battling the fiercest, most cunning creatures technology can create, or you’re a student or a professional who has to use your computer all the time. Or perhaps you’re just addicted to all things streaming...Netflix, Twitch, YouTube videos, or just keeping up with Reddit.
In any case, if you are looking at a computer screen or the screen of any other electronic device for any length of time, you are being exposed to blue light. This exposure is probably negatively affecting you in ways you didn’t even know existed, not only by disrupting your sleep, but by decreasing your productivity and potentially doing serious long term damage to your eyes and overall health.
A LITTLE LESSON IN PHYSICS
Light, as you may already know, is composed of electromagnetic particles that move in waves. These waves not only vary in their length and strength, they also emit energy, with the shorter waves emitting more energy than the longer ones.
Blue light has an extremely short wavelength of between 380 nm to 500 nm, with one ‘nm’ being a nanometer or a billionth of a meter. Although exposure to blue light has a dark side, it also has some benefits. When you are outside, you are naturally exposed to a lot of blue light. As sunlight comes through the atmosphere, the short blue light waves collide with the air molecules in the atmosphere causing them to scatter. This scattering of blue light is what makes the sky appear blue.
Your body actually uses these shorter blue wavelengths to regulate your circadian rhythm, which are your natural cycles of sleep and wakefulness. Exposure to blue light during the day from natural sources helps to keep you alert, boosts your mood, elevates your sense of well being and increases your reaction time.
But exposure to large amounts of blue light, especially the light coming from artificial sources, can overload your system and have negative effects. If you are like most people, you spend the largest part of your waking hours staring into your computer screen or other electronic device. And that’s not even counting the hours most people put in when they are not working! Not only is your computer screen exposing you to blue light, but blue light is also coming from your smartphone and electronic tablets, as well as your television and fluorescent and LED lighting.
THE DARK SIDE OF BLUE LIGHT
Ok, so now that you know you’re being exposed to too much blue light, let’s take a look at what all that exposure can actually do to you. Too much blue light has been implicated in the development of disrupted sleep, digital eyestrain, macular degeneration (damage to the cells in the center of your retina), an increased risk of depression, an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity and a greater risk of certain cancers.
So why is it that blue light can elevate your mood, keep you alert and increase your sense of well being one minute and at the same time disrupt your sleep and increase your risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes?
Researchers are not exactly sure why exposure to blue light, especially at night, seems to have such long term negative effects on human health. But these effects seem to be tied in with the nighttime production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep as well as your circadian rhythm.
BLUE LIGHT INSOMNIA
All that staring into your computer and other devices lowers your melatonin production at night and wreaks havoc with your sleep. But get this: once your sleep pattern gets out of whack, this can cause your body’s natural internal clock to shift. When this happens, you are not only going to have problems sleeping, the sensitive internal clocks that oversee the vital functions in many other of your bodily organs get disrupted as well.
Adequate, good quality sleep is absolutely essential for good health. Not only can poor sleep lead to a greater risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity, it can put your sex life into a downward spiral, make you more sensitive to pain, increase your risk of injury due to accidents, cause fuzzy thinking, impaired memory and sabotage your immune system.
FIVE CURES FOR THE BLUES
We are obviously not going to suddenly quit using your computer and all your other electronic devices, so what should we do? How can we sleep better, especially if we already have blue light insomnia?
1. GET SOME SUN
Get out in the sun during the day as much as you can. Research has shown that even five minutes of sun exposure on your face during the day can have significant positive effects on your mood. You will be more alert and getting out in the bright light during the day will help you sleep better at night.
2. BLOCK OUT THE BLUE
If you work at night or if you use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider getting a pair of glasses that block blue light or install an app on all your devices that is designed to filter out blue light. LPT: Most phones have a ‘night time’ option that turns blue light off on your screen.
3. TURN YOUR BEDROOM INTO A NO PHONE ZONE
Do not use your phone as an alarm clock, and do not charge your phone in your room. Find a new place for your phone to live at night like your kitchen or living room. It will deter you from scrolling through posts late into the night as well as first thing in the morning.
4. THEN TURN YOUR BEDROOM INTO A RED LIGHT DISTRICT
Red light has the least ability to negatively influence your circadian rhythm and depress your melatonin levels. If you must use a light at night, either by your bedside or as a nightlight, get one that has a red bulb.
5. REBOOT YOUR BRAIN
Consider trying Reboot, our sleep aid designed to combat blue light insomnia. Modern compounds are combined with lesser known roots and herbs to assist your body and brain to fall asleep more efficiently and recover more effectively after long bouts of screen time. You can check out the full ingredients and why we use them here.