It’s no secret that since the rise of electronics, our lifestyle has changed drastically. The blue light emitted from electronics poses harmful effects on our physical health. Here is a little insight on the impact of blue light on our everyday lives and what we should do about it.
If you’re like the rest of us, there is nothing better than coming home after a long day of work and binge watching that new Netflix Original, catching up on your social media channels, or maybe even indulging in an e-book. However, it is no secret that all electronic devices emit blue light and while most people are aware that this type of light is harmful, not many people know why and as a result it is often ignored.
Sources of blue light include the Sun, televisions, smartphones, computers, laptops, LED and fluorescent lighting. As you can see, a common belief that the blue light is only artificial is incorrect because the Sun also emits it. The blue light waves travel through the atmosphere and collide with air molecules. This is what makes the sky blue. However, our brain uses blue light to regulate our circadian rhythm so when we are exposed to it, we are more alert, our mood is better, and our reaction time is improved. However, natural blue light is not an issue, at least not in this context. The problem happens when we are exposed to it during the night time.
Effect of Blue Light on Our Sleep Cycle
Exposure to blue light suppresses secretion of melatonin which is a hormone that helps you sleep. Sun is the biggest source of light, which is why people say that the most productive time to work is during the day, as the blue light keeps you awake, active, and stops the production of melatonin.
If you’ve ever struggled to fall asleep, a common method people have turned to in the past is to read a book – a physical copy… not an e-book. This is because people who read on light-emitting devices take longer to fall asleep and enter the REM cycle than those that read a paper book.
Blue light boosts alertness and tells your body that it is not time to sleep yet. If you are too busy scrolling through your smartphone when you should be sleeping or glued to your TV watching your favorite reality TV show, your body gets the message that the sun is still up, leaving you wide awake. This can inhibit your sleep cycle and can have disastrous effects.
Why is REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep Important
Our sleep cycle includes four stages:
1. The first stage is non-REM which lasts several minutes and is a transition from wakefulness to sleep.
2. The second stage is also non-REM. However, it is still a light sleep.
3. A third non-REM sleep is called deep sleep. During this period, our muscles are relaxed, and it is difficult to wake up.
4. REM stage occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. This is the time when we might be whisked away in a dream. Brain waves are recorded to be similar to those when we are awake.
Babies spend more time in REM stages than adults, because it is essential for memory consolidation and brain development. Grown-ups spend about two-hours dreaming, but we do not remember all of our dreams. However, dreaming can happen even in non-REM stages.
During the REM stage of the sleep, our muscles are paralyzed which prevents us from acting out our vivid dreams. That is our body’s defense mechanism to stop us from getting hurt.
When we do not sleep enough, it can have severe negative effects on our health. It increases the levels of stress hormone which can lead to weight gain and diabetes, as well as high blood pressure. If you are sleep-deprived, your alertness will be compromised as well as your response time.
Some Tips on How to Reduce Exposure
A good sleep routine is the number one method of reducing exposure to blue light, which means, going to bed at the same time every night, regular exercising, and having five meals per day, according to an established schedule. However, avoid eating and exercising before bedtime. Remove all electronic devices including TV and a computer from your bedroom, to reduce exposure to blue light.
Also, expose yourself to sunlight during the day and stay away from blue light as much as possible after sundown. This should have a positive impact on your circadian rhythm.
Do not forget to use dim red lights, and do not use electronics at least one hour before bed.
Invest in blue-blocking glasses if you cannot avoid using your smartphone before going to bed. You can even install the app that blocks blue light.
The Bottom Line
If you have troubles with falling asleep, blue light might be the cause of the problem. Proper sleep hygiene is essential for your mental and physical health. Sleep deprivation can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain, mood changes, weak immunity, poor balance, memory problems, and even libido issues.
If you have eliminated every source of blue light from your bedroom, and followed every listed measure, you might have to deal with some other cause of bad sleep such as sleep apnea. If so, do not hesitate to contact your physician before sleep deprivation causes irreparable damage to your health.