If you’re accustomed to zoning out before bed in front of your TV, phone, or computer, you are significantly hindering your brain’s ability to produce sleep hormones.
A recent study found the blue light emitted from digital screens play a major role in sleep disturbances that have become so common. Almost half of Americans report sleep issues negatively affect their lives and the Centers for Disease Control calls sleep deprivation a public health epidemic. Chronic insufficient sleep is linked to obesity, diabetes, inflammation, and other metabolic disorders.
In the study, participants wore blue light blocking glasses for three hours each night before going to bed while continuing their normal nightly screen routines.
Blue-blocking outperforms supplements
After two weeks, the subjects showed an almost 60 percent increase in the production of melatonin, the primary sleep hormone.
This is an even greater increase in melatonin that taking an over-the-counter melatonin supplements can provide.
The subjects also wore activity and sleep monitors during the study. Data from these monitors showed improved sleep quality, falling asleep faster, and sleeping longer.
Other research has shown that subjects using an iPad before bed experienced reduced melatonin and poorer sleep compared to subjects who read a book before bed in dim light.
Healthy melatonin levels are necessary for good immune function and chronically low melatonin is associated with a risk for prostate, colorectal, and breast cancers.
Brain health and function depends on sleep
Although we all feel better when well rested, sufficient sleep is also vital for brain health and function. We need enough sleep to maintain focus, concentration, memory, mood, and coordination. Because the brain regulates the body’s systems, functions such as hormone balance, digestion, and detoxification are also impacted by lack of sleep.
Tips to support sleep hormone production
Blue light isn’t inherently bad; the sun is the largest source of blue light and our bodies depend on sufficient sunlight to regulate our sleep-wake cycle and myriad other functions.
However, digital devices and LED lights emit blue light similar to the sun’s that confuse the body’s internal clock when used at night. Artificial blue light activates photosensitive cells that suppress the production of melatonin.
In addition to wearing blue-blocking orange glasses before bed, people can also use blue-blocking screen filters, use lamps with orange bulbs at night, and wear blue-blocking glasses while out at night and exposed to artificial light. Some devices have night mode settings that lower blue light and computer and phone apps can be downloaded that do the same.
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