Here's Why You Should Block Blue Light At Night
Sleep is one of the most important factors when it comes to being healthy. We know that you should get between 7-9 hours a night of sleep. We also know that the majority of people fail to sleep this much. And to top it off, most people are not getting good quality sleep either. Put simply, we are a sleep deprived world. Technology has played a massive role in this sleep debt. Our phones, laptops, televisions, and bedroom lights expose us to blue light 24/7. Blue light, just like the sun, wakes us up and plays a role in our circadian rhythm. As the day turns into night, blue light fades away and the sleep process begins. But this hardly occurs due to the technology mentioned above. And this should worry you because excessive evening light exposure can disrupt the circadian rhythm and put you at a greater risk for weight gain, decreased energy, and a weakened immune system. I believe this is due to a melatonin deficiency.
Melatonin is a circadian rhythm hormone that signals sleep and recovery in the body. Melatonin is created in the pineal gland when lower levels of light are detected. However, light pollution and chronic light exposure have greatly reduced this mechanism. The production of melatonin occurs throughout the night, but the majority of it takes place between 9 and 11 pm.
Melatonin is more than just a sleep hormone, it plays a huge role in the recovery process. It is one of the most powerful antioxidants in the human body. In fact, it is 200% more powerful than Vitamin E (1). This antioxidant effect leads to reduced inflammation by ridding the body of free radicals. A moderate amount of free radicals is needed, but an excessive amount can lead to an inflammatory response which can wreak havoc on your energy levels.
In addition to the antioxidant effect, melatonin stimulates repairing enzymes which may increase energy, and longevity (2). Also, studies have shown that higher levels of melatonin promote higher levels of brown adipose tissue in the body (3). It is called brown fat due to higher mitochondrial density. Mitochondria are the cells responsible for energy production. So by improving your mitochondria, you improve your metabolism. In addition to an improved metabolism, melatonin has been shown to boost an immune system, fight off certain cancers, and even help prevent type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer's(4).
Unfortunately, the majority of us are missing out on these benefits due to our current environment and social life. I believe the excessive intake of blue night at night is one of the main reasons for poor sleep. To fight against this and improve your health, you must limit blue light to the daytime and reduce night time light exposure, especially between the hours of 8 pm to 11 pm. One of my favorite ways to do this is by wearing blue blocking glasses before bed. Yes, it does look a tad odd, but it really does help you sleep better!
A study done on 20 volunteers were randomized to two groups, either amber tinted (blue blocking) or yellow tinted safety glasses. Both groups went through a baseline assessment to measure their sleep and mood for one week before beginning the study. The group who wore the blue blocking glasses three hours prior to sleep reported improved sleep quality and mood over a two week span(5).
I understand this is just one study and you can’t extrapolate too much from it. However, anecdotally speaking, I fall asleep much faster when I wear my blue blocking glasses. Also, my clients have reported the same results. So based on the study and my own experiences, I am confident that blocking blue light at night can improve one’s sleep by increasing melatonin levels naturally. Remember, melatonin is a powerful hormone, it improves metabolism, reduces inflammation, and strengthens the immune system. But the only way to reap these benefits is by reducing evening blue light and getting adequate sleep.
Blue Light Blocking Products
Pieri C, Marra M, Moroni F, Recchioni R, Marcheselli F. Melatonin: a peroxyl radical scavenger more effective than vitamin E. Life Sci. 1994;55(15):PL271-6. PubMed PMID: 7934611.
Reiter RJ, Tan DX, Mayo JC, Sainz RM, Leon J, Czarnocki Z. Melatonin as an antioxidant: biochemical mechanisms and pathophysiological implications in humans. Acta Biochim Pol. 2003;50(4):1129-46. Review. PubMed PMID: 14740000.
Tan DX, Manchester LC, Fuentes-Broto L, Paredes SD, Reiter RJ. Significance and application of melatonin in the regulation of brown adipose tissue metabolism: relation to human obesity. Obes Rev. 2011 Mar;12(3):167-88. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2010.00756.x. Review. PubMed PMID: 20557470.
.Schernhammer ES, Schulmeister K. Melatonin and cancer risk: does light at night compromise physiologic cancer protection by lowering serum melatonin levels? Br J Cancer. 2004 Mar 8;90(5):941-3. Review. PubMed PMID: 14997186; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2409637.
Burkhart K, Phelps JR. Amber lenses to block blue light and improve sleep: a randomized trial. Chronobiol Int. 2009 Dec;26(8):1602-12. doi: 10.3109/07420520903523719. PubMed PMID: 20030543.