Why Artificial Light May Harm Your Sleep Quality and How to Protect Yourself
Individuals are exposed to all types of artificial light throughout the day and evening from overhead fluorescents and desk lights in the work environment to home kitchen, lamp lights and more. Computer screens, mobile devices and televisions also are frequent, if not excessive, light sources. Here's why this light exposure matters.
According to circadian biology expert Nick Coetzee, your brain is able to detect the time of day by interpreting the colours of light that come through your eyes. A signal travels from your eyes to a part of your brain called the hypothalamus, which controls which hormones your body releases. These can be hormones that make you feel alert (such as cortisol) or hormones that help you sleep (such as melatonin).
Mr. Coetzee explains that sunlight in the morning is comprised of a relatively high concentration of blue light. Blue light signals morning time and helps you feel awake and alert. In the evening as the sun sets, individuals are exposed to more of the orange or red wavelengths of light, which signal that it is almost time for sleep.
So, blue light is beneficial when
you have a busy day of work ahead. But, what about when you are trying to fall
asleep at night? This artificial light bears a close resemblance to morning light because it contains a lot of blue.
"When you’re exposed to artificial light after
sunset, your brain may try to stay awake and alert when in fact you want to be
winding down for a good night’s sleep," Mr. Coetzee said.
Not everyone is sensitive to the effects of artificial light before bedtime. Yet, if you are having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, artificial light may be the culprit. Limiting light exposure – and especially to blue light – in the hours leading up to bedtime may make a difference in your ability to sleep well.
HOW TO LIMIT EXPOSURE TO ARTIFICIAL LIGHT
Blue Blocker Glasses
Wear nonprescription blue blocker glasses, specifically those with orange lenses, that are designed to protect you from excessive exposure to blue light. When you look through an orange lens, your environment appears as it would at the time of sunset. This produces a calming effect, leading to a better night’s sleep. For best results, Mr. Coetzee recommends to wear the glasses from sunset until bedtime.
Lighting Levels and Sleep Environment
Dim the lights in your home one or two hours prior to bedtime. Then, ensure your bedroom is dark when it's time for sleep. This includes no ambient light streaming in through your windows or small power lights emitting from devices in the room, such as battery chargers or electronics. Use light-blocking window coverings and consider using a sleep mask, based on your preference.
Turn off your mobile device, computer and television in the hours leading up to sleep. Instead, read a book, take a soothing bath or listen to soft music to prepare yourself for a restful night.
Utilize blue light filters and screens for your computer display, television and phone, if you must use them before you go to sleep.
For more tips on achieving quality sleep, please see the article links below. Always consult with your healthcare provider about sleep issues you are experiencing.