The Dreaded Blue Light & Why It Disrupts Your Sleep Cycle
We’ve all experienced the moment when it’s time for bed, the lights are off, and you decide that it couldn’t hurt to take a quick peek at social media on your phone before you hit the hay. Then before you know it, it’s 3 hours later and your plan for a full night of restful sleep has been ruined. But what is it about a quick glance at our phones that seems to tell our brains, “Hey, stay awake!” even when we’re tired?
You guessed it! The answer is that our electronic devices produce a blue wavelength that disrupts our sleep-wake cycle by convincing our brains that it is daytime. This artificial blue light also prevents a person’s body from releasing enough of the hormone melatonin, which is a crucial step in the process of falling asleep. Once your circadian rhythm has been disrupted, it can unfortunately become difficult to resynchronize. And if on top of that your sleep environment is uncomfortable, including your bedding and your mattress, you are more likely to be awake and restless at night — and more tempted to check your phone at 2 AM.
All of this can have a huge impact on our health, particularly for children and teens. There have been several studies linking repeatedly delayed or diminished releases of melatonin to depression, cancer, and obesity. Currently, everything from our phones to our TV’s emits blue light, and these devices therefore have a real negative impact on our sleep and long term health particularly when used right before going to bed.
So, What Can I Do To Improve My Sleep?
This is simultaneously the hard part and the easy part. Limiting your screen time in the evening and creating a mandatory cutoff point for when electronics have to be powered down can help you (or your children) by curbing the amount of blue light you are exposed to prior to sleep. Power down at least one to two hours before bedtime so your body has a chance to start to produce melatonin. You can also buy some new light bulbs that do not emit blue light and install them in the bedroom to ensure a blue light-free area.
It’s also important to make sure you understand what environment your body prefers when you are falling asleep. Do you easily get hot and need a particularly cold room? If so, you can buy high-quality cotton sheets that are breathable, moisture wicking, and most importantly will not retain the heat your body gives off while sleeping. And of course, the most vital component of having a healthy sleep environment is owning a comfortable mattress that is tailored to your specific needs. How firm do you like your mattress need to be? If you’re waking up with backaches in the middle of the night, that is a clear sign that your current mattress is not meeting your needs.
Another common problem is having a mattress that doesn’t work with your bed frame. It’s common for college dorm beds to have extremely tall frames, so adding a tall mattress means it’s difficult for shorter students to even get on their bed. All in all, not very conducive to a positive sleep space. Also, a mattress that’s not fit properly to a bed frame, like an antique bed frame or a sofa bed, will slide around when you move at night and lead to further disruptions in your sleep cycle. If that’s the case for you, consider buying a custom sized mattress that is made with your preferences in mind and to your exact size specifications.
If your bed is already comfortable, then making simple changes like buying a separate alarm clock rather than using an app on your phone to wake up in the morning, will help prevent you from becoming dependent on having your phone right by your bed. It’s much easier to resist the temptation of checking your phone if it is plugged in across the room from you, but if you still can’t resist than you can mandate that the bedroom be a technology free space. This can seem like a tall order, but you’re sure to notice an improvement in the quality of your sleep if you follow through!