Oh, what heaven it is to finally, finally get all the kids down for bed, have the kitchen cleaned, me showered, and have some time to breathe in my super soft jammies and warm bed! I love being able to sink down and either watch a good show to wind down or catch up on what my friends and fam are up to on Facebook or Insta for a few minutes after my bedtime routine.
The problem I didn’t realize with the TV and phone scrolling is that once you start….it’s very hard to stop. I mean, obviously FB is very good in figuring out how to make it ‘addictive’, as is Pinterest or Instagram!
But that’s not the only problem. You don’t feel like you need to go sleep at that point because of this little pesky thing in your electronics called blue lights and how they're affecting your sleep.
And make no mistake, blue light can affect not just your sleep, but also can indirectly start a whole cycle of other problems! Since sleep is so incredibly important for our body and brains to function, this is becoming a huge problem.
Sleep can affect our hunger hormones, our energy levels, and even make us feel foggy and lethargic all day if we don’t get quality and enough sleep.
My philosophy is to always merge healthy + efficient to make health magic happen ✨.
And since bad sleep can be counterproductive to so many of our other health efforts, it’s one of the highest things on my list for clients to fix upfront.
Where Blue Light Comes From
Blue light is emitted from pretty much all your electronics with a screen: TV, phone, tablets, game systems, computer monitors. But it also comes from our LED lighting.
The thing is, blue light is in sunlight, which we need–but when it’s an isolated short-waved light like we’ve produced in our electronics and the LED lights we fill our homes with, it becomes a different issue. Especially when we’ve got it blaring in our faces all day and night.
Does Blue Light Actually Affect Sleep?
The answer is yes–blue light does actually affect sleep. The direct effects of blue light are eye strain and disruption in melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone you produce to get to sleep.
But the eye strain part is also important. Think about how many people have headaches through the day that are just attributed to ‘sitting at a desk’ or ‘tech neck’. A good portion of this can be traced back to the actual blue light they’re inundated with all day and into the night.
Neck pain can cause poor sleep as well all on its own.
How Blue Light Affects Sleep Indirectly
How blue light affects sleep indirectly become more tricky. But based on the direct effects, they come in 2 parts: the hormone issue, and the eye strain issue.
1-Hormones— Melatonin is a hormone, and your body kicks the production of it up around 2pm at the same time cortisol should be gradually getting lower. This works in harmony so that by bedtime you’re sleepy with cortisol very low (it gives you energy when it’s high.)
But when blue lights are kicking it down when the sun goes down outside, we have a problem. The blue light melatonin connection is why it’s so hard to go to sleep when you’re scrolling on your phone or just. can’t. stop. watching that fave show you’ve been binging.
When you disrupt that melatonin production, you’re disrupting other hormones, too. It’s pretty much jacking with your circadian rhythm, and keep this in mind: 2 OTHER hormones are at play while you sleep called ghrelin and leptin.
These 2 hormones tell your body whether you have enough energy or not. If you’re not getting enough sleep, and the melatonin is out of whack, these 2 hormones will also be out of whack.
Why does this matter? Well, have you noticed if you’ve only had a couple hours of sleep how hungry you are all day? Or that you crave carbs all the time?
This is because those 2 hormones are telling your body you need more energy. And when you eat more, especially simple carbs (including sugar), what happens? Yep–you gain and store more fat.
2–Eye strain— This can quickly develop into greater problems, because those blue lights are shorter waves and actually penetrate your eye all the way to the light-sensitive cells in the retina. This can actually increase the risk of macular degeneration! I don’t know about you, but I already have eye issues. I was SEVERELY nearsighted until I had LASIK. And it was 25 years of misery with contacts. I have no intention of making things bad again!!
And also, that eye strain can–again–contribute to headaches. How much pain medicine are you downing and filtering through your kidneys and liver because of that headache every day/ few days?
How to Be Strategic with Blue Light
One of the best ways to get around this blue light conundrum in our age of digital and tech gadgets is to start setting a ‘curfew’ for the electronics. Our household has a rule of none from dinnertime on. And if the hubby and I want to watch TV after the kids are in bed, we have blue-light-blocking glasses that I snagged off Amazon.
But my favorite (because they send you a little blue light and card to test it) are the glasses. They’re just like regular glasses–clear–but they block that light for you, and they're available on Amazon.
Bottom line is that we really need to be more vigilant in keeping the blue lights out in the evenings to protect our sleep. The reality is that the systems it affects go many levels deep, and ultimately are affecting our overall health.
Circadian Rhythm image source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/The-circadian-driven-hormones-cortisol-and-melatonin-occur-out-of-phase-Cortisol-peaks_fig3_314240866
Image credit: Ketut Subiyanto, pexels.com