Monday, January 20, 2014

Block Out Blue Light at Night!

I had a lovely day off today, but now it's back to work... back to bed!

Maybe you already set a bedtime alarm or take the time to shut down before bed, but maybe you slipped back into old ways.  Maybe you have so much work to do that by the time you're done on your computer, you're ready to crash and don't have time to "unwind" before you drift off to sleep!  Does that mean you're doomed to reap the consequences of evening blue light exposure?  Not at all!  There are a few ways you can block out blue light to help you achieve a good night's sleep.

First of all, why do we care about blue light?

Our bodies know well that daylight is "awake" time, and that darkness means time to sleep and recover for the next day.

According to the Harvard Health Letter (May 2013), blue wavelengths help boost attention and reaction times (great for during the day), but also serves to powerfully suppress melatonin--the sleep hormone.  It makes sense that our melatonin would be lower during the day, when it's light and we should be active, and should be raised at night, when it's dark and not much can be done, so we can sleep and rest up for the next day's activities.

This is great, because it means we fall asleep at night when it's dark and are awake during the (blue wavelength) daylight hours.  However, this becomes a problem when our lightbulbs, televisions, computers, tablets, and phones emit strong blue light throughout the late hours of the evening and night.  These trick our body into thinking it is still day, so we should remain awake!  Thus, we become "wired", unable to sleep or experiencing poor quality of sleep when we finally hit the sack.

How can we "hack" this modern twist on blue light and orange light?  I've got a few suggestions for you:

1.  Change your screen's light!  Download a program called f.lux to have your computer screen automatically change light quality with the rising and setting of the sun.  SO cool!  At first, you'll clearly see the difference between your "regular" screen and your new orange-tinted screen, but I promise you get used to it and won't even notice the difference after a day or two.

(Personally, I've found that running the app slows down my computer.  Maybe it's just me, but, for this reason, I recently opted for Hack #2...)

2. Wear orange-tinted glasses.  I bought mine for just six dollars on Amazon.  These are easy enough to slip on while you use your electronics in the hours before bed, blocking out blue light for you.  They do make everything slightly darker, so that can be difficult, but they're great for if I'm just finishing a few things up on the computer or phone at night, knowing I want to go to bed soon after I finish.

3. Change your bulbs!  Replace a lamp or two in your bedroom with red lights to use at night.  Help yourself mellow out for bed.

4.  Use your bedtime alarm to mean SHUT DOWN and go to bed. Sorry, my last tip here is not a hack, but a simple reminder that there's no better trick than actually shutting down.  It's late.  Instead of watching TV or skimming Facebook, read a book or write in a journal.  Avoiding screens and electronics for even just an hour or two before bed can make a huge difference.

Do you have any tricks for keeping your sleep hormones regulated and ready for night?


  1. Great ideas! I leave my cell phone in the kitchen so there's no temptation for "just one more game of Candy Crush" while I'm laying in bed.
    Down side, if someone needs me in the middle of the night (chances of this are low) I won't hear about it until the next morning.

    1. Smart move. Having the phone bedside is inviting temptation to disrupt sleep!

  2. very interesting! i've never even heard of blue light before!

  3. Great thoughts. So important to shut down! We instigated a "no work" (which is usually online) rule at 10 pm where we shut down. Now we just need to follow it! (And 9 pm would be even better...) Thanks for the tips!


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