Blue light gets a bad rap these days as a disrupter of sleep and a depresser of mood. Yet blue (and green) light is entirely naturally and is an excellent source of dopamine, serotonin and cortisol – the hormones that motivate us, make us feel happy and keep us alert during the course of an active and productive day. However, that is not what we want at night when our bodies need to sleep and rest. But thanks to our screens, our devices, our TVs, and our LED lights, we are continuing to stimulate dopamine, serotonin and cortisol production way past daylight hours when we should instead be stimulating the sleep hormone, melatonin.
The circadian rhythm of our natural body clocks is governed by the sun. Bright blue light (weather allowing) from a clear blue sky in the morning to wake us up and stimulate activity. Blue light balanced by red and yellow light from the sun during the day and then, ideally, no light at all once the sun has gone down, the day is done and we are set for sleep. But that is not, in our on line world, what we get.
And the issue is not only that we are failing to stimulate the production of enough melatonin to achieve a good night’s sleep, but that we are overstimulating our production of dopamine, serotonin and cortisol thus creating hormone resistence. This, in due course can lead to hormone related conditions such as anxiety and depression. All of which are, of course, made much worse if we do not get sufficient sleep.
The obvious answer would be to stop using all blue light emitting devices after sunset – but that is not going to happen. And the situation is now made very much more difficult by the fact that most energy efficient light bulbs (not only in one’s room lights but the lights in one’s fridge etc) are all LEDs which also emit blue light.
So what to do?
Attempt to instill some degree discipline into one’s use of devices. So try to leave a good two hour break between the last look at a screen and going to bed – enough time for dopamine/serotonin/cortisol production to stop and for melatonin production to get underway.
- Use blue light filtering systems on your screens to reduce the amount of blue light they admit.
- Use incandescent or halogen lights in your house which emit yellow light rather than blue. And use red light bulbs in the evening.
Use filtering glasses.
- Clear lensed glasses which filter out blue light. But be sure to do your research and get quality glasses. Cheap ones will only cut out 40-50% of the blue light and that is no good.
- Yellow lensed glasses which will filter out blue light but also add mood boosting yellow to what you see.
- Red lensed glasses for the evening which block all blue light and if worn for two to three hours before you go to bed will boost melatonin production.
Other points to note.
- Salt lamps give out a very pleasant gentle pink light for evening.
- In the evening try not to use ceiling lights. Ancestrally, after dark, there would have been no light from above, only light from fires or glowworms which would be below eye level. So try and keep your evening lighting at or below your eye level.
- There are also blue light sensors in your skin so exposing a lot of your skin to blue light (sleeveless tops in summer in front of a screen) can also decrease your evening production of melatonin.
- It can only take one brief exposure to blue light in the evening (such as opening your fridge and seeing the LED light inside) to set back your melatonin production by 20 minutes.