What if you were to hear that you don’t have to power down your electronic device to sleep well at night? Or that you could be up through the night and still get good sleep! The answer lies in blue light and melatonin.
Melatonin is our sleep hormone, and it is naturally made by our own body in our pineal gland. This sleep hormone is typically secreted at night. How does our body know to only secrete our sleep hormone at night? Daylight suppresses daytime melatonin secretion, specifically blue light.
Blue Light Special?
Visible light is made up of spectrum of different electromagnetic waves. When you see a rainbow you’re seeing dispersion of the sun’s light by water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing opposite to the sun (which is why you see it arc towards the earth). There is a portion of the visual spectrum that forms blue light (it has a frequency of <520 nm). Visible light travels to our eyes and helps us see, but specifically the blue light spectrum stimulates a nerve pathway from the retina in the eye to a special center called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN delays the release of melatonin, which is associated with sleep onset, until hours later when darkness arrives. In a nutshell, our own body makes melatonin, and daylight inhibits the release of the sleep hormone until night falls... melatonin is then released. Endless Light, Endless Night! But what if light never falls? You can see how it might be a problem if one lived in a land of constant light exposure, it would interfere with your body’s ability to secrete its own natural sleep hormone. Traveling to such a mysterious land doesn’t require a plane ticket to Alaska or Iceland in the summer, all you have to do is Google it... Literally! Computers, phones, tablets and laptops all emit blue light. When you use these devices at night, it tricks your brain into thinking it's day-time. This delays the sleep phase and can in turn lead to insomnia. Several studies have shown that use of electronics at night are associated with insomnia. Other studies have shown that when people read at night, reading from a tablet is associated with later sleep times than when reading from a book with a dim light. Preventing Blue Light at Night What can one do to prevent blue light exposure at night? The obvious answer is to power down electronics at night. Television, texting, and Facebook in bed send a roaring spectrum of blue light, blinding the Sandman’s travels. What about to those who do live in higher latitudes where there is more light exposure in the summer, or to those who shift-work late into the night or morning? It is well known that using dark tinted glasses helps block the blue light exposure, allowing your natural melatonin flow into slumber. For example, it has been advised for shift-workers driving home to wear tinted glasses while driving home in the morning after an overnight shift. This allows your natural melatonin to come out. However, the problem with wearing dark tinted glasses... is that you can’t see! There is a solution in a set of glasses that filter out the blue light, yet still allow you to see. Blue Block Glasses were specifically made to filter out the blue light, but still allow the other light spectrums of visible light to come through. And it has been pretty well studied. What Does Science Say? A study from the Journal of Pineal Research concluded that blue blockers represent an elegant means to prevent light-induced melatonin suppression. This creates a potential alternative over dark, blinding glasses... and they can be used at home too! Another study out of the Journal of Adolescent Health concluded that blue blocker glasses may be useful in adolescents in counteracting the alerting effects induced by light exposure through LED screens. [caption id="attachment_703" align="alignleft" width="150"] Blue Block Glasses[/caption]
Clear as Light
Important to make clear… I am not promoting poor sleep habits. Good sleep hygiene is important. It is advised to power off electronics prior to bed, just as it is to have regular sleep and wake times. However, there are realities in our stress-filled world that are not always the most conducive for sleep.
Teenagers have childhood sleep needs, but adult responsibilities. It is ideal for a teen to get about nine hours of sleep for continued growth and brain maturation. However the ungodly early school times that they have, plus jobs, sports, or other responsibilities might put them into a circumstance where they need to do homework or research for projects that require computer exposure. So, I’m not promoting electronic device usage for teens, rather I’m acknowledging that happens, and informing that blue block glasses may help teen sleep.
Shift workers are another reality. It is recommended to go to bed at a regular time at night. However there are vitally important jobs that you don’t want to be without workers at night. Nurses, air traffic controllers, air traffic controllers, and of course… sleep techs!… these are not jobs that can be eliminated at night. Blue Block glasses may reduce the havoc to one’s sleep that is accompanied by night shift.
Not only has the technology been studied in research journals, but in my research I’ve found Blue Block Glasses to be more affordable than other brands. You can learn more about Blue Block glasses at BlueBlockGlasses.com. Ask your primary care physician or a sleep disorders specialist if they would be right for you.