Most people know that to stay healthy you need to eat well and exercise daily. But our sleep habits are often overlooked when it comes to mapping out a healthy routine for you and your family.
The busyness of daily life and constant need to be plugged into technology at all times puts our health in jeopardy. Here’s what you should know about the blue light many of these items emit and how it could be negatively affecting your health.
What is Blue Light?
Blue light, or artificial lighting, is the light omitted from your phone, laptop or tablet. People rely on technology for everything. We set the alarm on our phones every morning to wake up. We use it to check our social media accounts and to learn what’s going on in the world in an instant. We use computers and laptops to do our work on and we even use it as a distraction from being mindful and present.
With so much dependence on it, technology may also be causing health problems. It is a large reason why so many of us have trouble sleeping at night. The stimulation of technology and being exposed to light at night may be keeping us awake and disrupting sleep patterns hours after going to bed.
How Blue Light Affects Hormone Levels and Health
Using artificial lighting too close to bedtime may even affect our hormone levels. Blue light from phones, tablets and laptops may suppress the hormone melatonin, which is needed to help us relax and fall asleep at night. Melatonin is also responsible for lowering glucose levels, blood pressure and body temperature in preparation for a good night’s sleep.
According to a 2011 study, exposure to light before bedtime suppressed melatonin levels in approximately 99 percent of individuals by a duration of 90 minutes. Another study found that light exposure before bed may disrupt hormones and shift our biological clock, which is responsible for controlling our eating times. This can lead to weight gain and depression.
A 2013 study found that being exposed to light in the evening before going to bed caused depression in hamsters that included being less interested in activities that they were otherwise interested in. These symptoms then went away when the light was taken away at night.
Along with weight gain, depression and suppression of melatonin, disturbed sleep patterns can lead to a new set of problems for people during the day such as decreased concentration levels and overall displeasure. Driving while tired has been found to be as dangerous as driving while slightly intoxicated.
Sleeping In The Dark Is Best
Our brains and bodies are naturally in tune with the natural lights of the sun and moon. We wake up at sunrise and feel ourselves getting tired when the moon comes out. Those basic and natural processes are being negatively affected by blue light, which is causing overstimulation and disrupting otherwise natural sleep cycles.
Most people sleep in complete darkness at night but only after they turn off their blue lights. In order to get the most out of your nightly rest, turn off the blue lights one hour prior to climbing in bed. You may even want to make it a rule to not allow electronics in the bedroom after 7 pm. Turn off all television sets if you have one in your room. If you need help falling asleep at night, try climbing in bed, turning off the lights and meditating for a few minutes before crawling under the blankets.
What To Do Instead Of Checking Your Phone At Night
Sleeping in the dark and turning off electronics is especially important to children. So is putting them to bed before 9 pm! Sleep is an important part of regulating hormone levels. The growth hormone, which is needed for children to properly grow and develop, is released at 10 pm, mid-night and 2 am each night. But children must be in full REM sleep in order for the hormone to work. So putting them to bed early without the use of electronics is best.
This can be done by developing an alternative bedtime routine that does not involve blue light. You may find that giving them a bath, reading them a book and putting them to bed is the best way to enforce the lights out policy without too much resistance. Adults also need to unplug at night, which is hard for those who constantly rely on technology to supplement their daily work routine.
If you must stay up late to work, make an effort to get yourself in total darkness as soon as possible. Turn off the computer or phone, place it somewhere you won’t be tempted to check it, and spend a few quiet moments sitting in the darkness before heading to bed.
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