Is Blue Light Wrecking Your Sleep?

Blue light

Once upon a time, bedrooms were reserved for sleep and sex. Today, they function as a TV room, office, gym, and family den with kids, pets, and electronic devices vying for your attention. With all that exhausting activity, you’d think you’d crash as soon as your head hit the pillow, but science says the opposite is true. Kids and pets fidget and snuffle, which can disrupt sleep and there is increasing evidence that the artificial blue light that brightens tablets, smartphones, and e-books interferes with your body’s ability to produce melatonin, a crucial sleep hormone.

How to Take Back the Night

“There is a third receptor in the eye that is very sensitive to this particular blue light wavelength,” explains Michael Breuss, Ph.D., a sleep disorder specialist in Scottsdale, Arizona, and author of the Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan. Curl up in bed with a Nook or Kindle, Dr. Breuss says, and the blue light from the device sends a signal to your brain to not produce melatonin. The result? Tossing and turning for at least 90 minutes, which is how long it takes the brain to generate a full concentration of sleep-inducing melatonin, he says.

Blue light is in every form of lighting, including television and light bulbs, but a study at the Mayo Clinic found that its effect has more to do with proximity than the actual light itself, says Breuss. “Your ipad or iPhone is closer to your face than the TV or the light bulb in the ceiling.”

5 Ways to Take Back the Night

Most people need at least 6 ½ to 7 hours of rest each night, says Breuss. If you aren’t getting that much, you may be sleep deprived, which can contribute to weight gain and even depression.

Ready to take back the night? Here are five simple sleep solutions.

1- Subdue the Blue

Dim the screens of your electronic devices and hold them at least 14 inches from your face, suggests Dr. Breuss.

2- Shield the Screen

“I put a sleep shield on my device,” says Breuss. “It blocks the blue light but doesn’t change the candescence of the screen itself.” (One source: Sleep Shield.)

3- Change the Bulbs

Almost all artificial light sources emit blue light, so Breuss has installed special LED bulbs in his bedroom that filter blue light. He uses Definity Digital.

4- Turn Off the TV

Watching TV, especially news or anything with violent imagery, can be overly stimulating and interfere with quality sleep. Experts suggest moving the TV out of the bedroom entirely or turning it off an hour before turning in.

5- Take Back the Bedroom

If you’re really committed to getting quality sleep, turn your bedroom into a sanctuary. That means removing the TV and all electronic devices, training your children to sleep in their own beds, crating your pet, turning down the thermostat, and investing in window treatments that adequately darken the room. The ideal environment, Breuss says, is “cool, dark, and quiet.” But even he knows how hard that can be. His advice? “Do what you can.”

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