Sleep plays an important role in maintaining our overall health and well-being. While we are asleep our bodies undergo a number of processes which help it recover from the day just gone and to prepare for the one ahead.
Lack of sleep has been linked to various health conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, lower immunity levels and depression. Yet people can struggle to get the quality rest they need due to factors such as stress, anxiety, poor diet and sleeping disorders — including obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
Whatever reason someone may struggle to get a good night’s sleep, doctors recommend changing bad habits such as eating heavy meals or consuming alcohol prior to going to bed. Another suggestion will be to eliminate any electronic screen time prior to sleeping.
Screens and their Impact on Sleep Patterns
Our sleeping routines are determined by our biological clock. This is also referred to as our circadian rhythm, a 24-hour body clock which controls our sleep/wake cycle.
The circadian rhythm uses light signals to adjust the body clock, most importantly the light from day time and night time. In years gone by this was all the light sources our bodies had to concern itself with. However, with the invention of artificial lighting and more recently electronic screens of all descriptions, our body clocks have a lot more sensory input to deal with.
The proliferation of electronic screens in our everyday lives has increased our exposure to blue light. Modern day energy efficient lighting also emits more light on this color wavelength. We are exposed to blue colored light during the day, particularly from sunlight when we are out and about. However, this is good as it helps increase our levels of alertness while also improving our mood and performance.
It is the increase in exposure to blue light at night which can be one of the reasons why so may people experience difficulty in falling asleep.
As the day’s light starts to fall, a hormone called melatonin is released which tells the body to get tired and prepare for sleeping. This is where exposure to light sources at night can be an issue, as it can suppress melatonin production and lead to sleeping problems.
Some studies have even linked exposure to light at night time as an increased risk factor for health conditions like cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Night Light and Melatonin
Any light at night will see a drop in production of melatonin but blue light has the biggest impact and the reason why this aspect of modern-day life can be detrimental to a good sleeping routine.
In one study at Harvard, the effects of both blue and green light were analysed. The researchers compared the impact of 6.5 hours of exposure to both colors at a comparable level of brightness. The outcome was the light on the blue wavelength suppressed the production of melatonin for around twice as long compared to exposure to green light.
The University of Toronto approached the issue by studying the effect on melatonin when wearing goggles which blocked blue colored light. The result showed that those in the test group who wore the goggles had the same levels of melatonin as those without goggles who were exposed to regular levels of dim light.
Given the Harvard study results as well, this points to how blue colored light impacts on the production of melatonin and the implication this has on the body clock for telling us we need rest. It also points to one of the ways to offset the problem of blue night light.
What You Can Do
Wearing tinted glasses could be extremely useful for people who have to work at night or who are keeping irregular hours for whatever reason.
Amber-tinted glasses are one of the most effective ways to counter the blue light emitted by electronic devices. Blocking the blue light will allow your natural melatonin to regulate your sleep.
Of course, there are other tips to help ease your body into sleep mode. Simply turning off lights where possible or dimming them is a good starting point.
You may try switching to red lights for night-time lighting as this color suppresses melatonin the least.
Removing the temptation of screens from the bedroom — and avoiding screens for two or three hours before bedtime — can also help in promoting good sleep.
Make Changes to Improve Your Health
Having consistently disrupted sleep can have detrimental effects on your health. For those with disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea, the effective nature of any treatment plan may be hampered by problems falling asleep.
Therefore, addressing the level of blue light you are exposed to at night time is important in setting your body clock and ensuring a good sleep routine.
Also important is trying to expose yourself to plenty of bright outdoor light during the day. This will also benefit your body clock, helping keep you alert during the day and tired at night.
Try taking a melatonin supplement to help regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Taking a melatonin supplement can help reset your inner “sleep clock” so you fall asleep more easily.
You might also benefit from these alternative OSA products.
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