Chances are you’ve read that limiting screen time before bed can help you sleep better. The reasoning behind that? Studies have shown that the blue and white light emitted by many electronic prevents the brain from releasing melatonin, a hormone that tells your body when to go to sleep.
So if you don’t have enough melatonin, you may have trouble falling — and staying — asleep. Thus, too much exposure to blue light can throw your circadian rhythms out of whack and affect your rest.
“We have known for quite awhile now that light is the most powerful cue for shifting the phase or resetting the time of the circadian clock,” Harvard University neuroscientist Anne-Marie Chang told Scientific American in 2015. “Recent studies have shown that short-wavelength [blue] light has a greater effect on phase shifting the circadian clock and on melatonin suppression.”
A new study has further clarified that light exposure can harm your sleep, and offered a potential solution. For a paper published recently in the medical journal Physiology and Behavior, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital observed sixteen healthy participants over four days in an inpatient setting. The participants were exposed to various types of light, and their melatonin suppression, auditory reaction times, sleep time, and reported sleepiness were measured.
“The study shows that designing lighting to selectively inhibit the right wavelengths can substantially reduce the circadian disruption caused by exposure to light before bed,” researcher Steven Lockley, PhD of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said in a press release.
So, how can you prevent blue light from affecting your sleep? One option is custom lighting, as recommended by the researchers behind this study.
Experts also recommend staying away from screens for a couple of hours before bedtime — and The National Sleep Foundation warns that “even our small electronic devices emit sufficient light to miscue the brain and promote wakefulness.” Many electronics come with a “night mode” that uses orange-tinged light rather than blue.
And soon, cosmetics may be able to help, too. Former supermodel Cindy Crawford just released a new product available exclusively at ULTA — the Meaningful Beauty Environmental Protecting Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF30 Sunscreen ($65) — that claims to battle the blue light emitted by electronics.
Featured image: Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley/Shuttershock
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