As a medical practice focused on longevity, we are very clear on how vital sleep is for optimal health. Lack of sleep and inadequate sleep contributes to chronic disease and can sabotage your efforts at getting healthy and losing weight. The stats are that sleep disorders affect up to 70 million Americans every year, and this number has likely worsened due to the pandemic and all the stress related to it. While traditional physicians are quick to prescribe strong, addictive meds like Ambien, as a functional medicine practice, we seek the find and treat the root cause of insomnia. And sometimes it’s as simple (or as complicated) as a lack of proper sleep hygiene.
How many of you are guilty of looking at blue screens before you go to sleep? I know I am – trying to answer one more patient email or cross one more thing off the to do list. One of my new favorite biohacks these days is wearing blue light glasses to protect my eyes from high-energy blue wavelengths. These are specially designed glasses made with special blue light lenses designed to filter out blue light, but to let other types of light through.
What’s the science behind these blue light glasses? To understand this, we need to know more about what blue light is and how it affects us.
Not all colors of light have the same effect. Light of the blue wavelength is beneficial during daylight hours because it can boost attention, reaction time, and mood – but it also tends to be most disruptive at night. And with all the electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, our exposure to blue lengths is collectively increasing, which affects our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is our body’s internal clock which is reset every day, and is adjusted by first exposure to light in the morning.
The issue with light exposure to light at night is that it suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that heavily influences our circadian rhythms. Even dim light can interfere with our internal clock and melatonin secretion. According to Harvard sleep researchers, even brightness measured at 8 lux – which is about the brightness of most table lamps and about twice that of a night light - can impact sleep.
Light of any kind can suppress melatonin, but blue light does this more powerfully. Several studies of clearly demonstrated that blue light is a potent suppressor of melatonin.
So, if you can’t put the devices away 2-3 hours before bed, consider wearing blue light glasses as they have specially crafted lenses to block or filter out blue light given off from digital screens.