Until the invention of the light bulb, the sun was the major source of lighting for most, and many spent their evenings in darkness. Today, many are experiencing a well illuminated life, but could this be affecting you more than meets the eye?
Circadian rhythm is our body’s built-in clock, letting us know when we should be awake, hungry, and when we should be sleeping. This system runs off of many external influences, the primary source being light. Not all light is created equally, blue light seems to be the most important. While beneficial early in the day for attention, energy and reaction time, too much towards the end of your day may upset your circadian rhythm and upset sleep patterns as well as mood.
How does light affect my sleep? Melatonin, the hormone that influences sleep, is suppressed with light exposure. Even the modest amount of light from a street lamp, and your phone can upset the secretion of melatonin and impact your sleep. Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher, suggests that a light twice as powerful as your normal nightlight is enough to have this impact. Short sleep has been linked to many concerns including diabetes, weight gain, hormonal imbalance, and depression.
Continue reading for three tips on limiting your blue light exposure and bettering your sleep.
In order to make your bedroom a light-free sanctuary, try using very dim lighting or even red lighting if you must. Red light is less likely to alter your circadian rhythm. Using red lights in your bedroom or buying some red light glasses are a great way to decrease your light exposure.
About two to three hours before bedtime, begin limiting your screen time. Many smartphones have a blue light-less feature, use this. The Iphone even has a mode that aligns with sunrise and sunset at your location. If you are a night shift worker or must use screens at night we suggest wearing blue light blocking glasses at night.
One of the best things you can do is to get lots of bright natural light early in the day. This early exposure to light will not only help you wake up but increase your mood and alertness throughout the day, while increasing your ability to sleep. The best exposure you can get for your eyes and to stimulate your circadian clock is sunlight viewed outside. Try to get 10-15 minutes of bright light in the morning, and another 10-15 minutes in the middle of the day. This is especially important if you work inside all day.
As you can see, these tips are not difficult or drastic. Implementing these three simple steps today will have a large impact on your sleep hygiene!