Blue light at night is bad for your health! Exposure to blue light emitted by electronics and energy-efficient light bulbs may be especially so. Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.
Even dim light can interfere with a person’s circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. A mere eight lux—a level of brightness exceeded by most table lamps and about twice that of a night light—has an effect, notes Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher. Light at night is part of the reason so many people don’t get enough sleep, says Lockley, and researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light does so more powerfully. Harvard researchers and their colleagues conducted an experiment comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light of comparable brightness. The blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).
Blue light, has been singled out as more significantly disruptive to sleep than other colors on the light spectrum. Research has shown blue light delays release of the sleep hormone melatonin, disrupts circadian rhythms, and may influence negative changes to mood. Exposure to artificial light, blue light, at night — especially to the high concentrations of blue light coming from digital devices — will interfere with the ability to sleep. Too often, these devices find their way into our bedrooms, in many instances even to be used as alarm clocks. The presence of artificial light from devices like smartphones and tablets in the bedroom poses a challenge to the darkness that is so important to normal circadian rhythm function. This nighttime light intrusion also stimulates alertness and brain activity that is counterproductive to the mind and body’s natural pull toward sleep.
While we can minimize night-time exposure to artificial light, TVs, tablets, phones, computers and digital screens, studies have shown that wearing amber or orange tinted glasses that block 94% or more of blue light can help reduce the negative effects on sleep.
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