Studies have proven that bright lights can keep us awake at night. Light affects our circadian rhythm or biological clock in accordance with light and dark. Darkness also affects our pineal gland’s production of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that helps induce sleep. Light signals your body to produce less melatonin, causing you to stay awake longer and can even lead to self-inflicted insomnia.
A Revolutionary Study into Blue Light
The 1998 discovery of a new photoreceptor in the eye—which later turned out to be especially sensitive to blue light—revolutionized the way we think about how circadian rhythm is entrained. Today we understand that blue light has many unique physiologic effects such as Melatonin Secretion, Body Temperature, Cortisol Secretion, Heart Rate, Alertness, Cognitive Performance, Psychomotor Performance, Brain Bloodflow, EEG Responses, Clock Gene Expression, and Circadian Regulation. Some of these physiologic effects can even be seen in blind people. Some studies in the 1990’s showed that blind people who still had their eyes showed normal circadian rhythms, and they were able to suppress melatonin secretion and shift circadian rhythm by exposing them to bright light. While some blind individuals, particularly those whose eyes had been removed, showed abnormal, free-running circadian rhythms with attendant sleep disorders, as one would expect for the sightless.
Now, knowing how much light, especially blue light, can affect our bodies it’s not surprising that about 60% of Americans say that they experience a sleep problem every night or almost every night. Around 90% of Americans use some sort of electronics like a television, computer, video game, tablet, or cell phone at least a few nights a week within an hour before bed; and about 63% of Americans say that their sleep needs are not being met during the week. Something as simple as turning off electronics an hour before going to bed could help people get a better and longer night of sleep. But, if turning off your electronics isn’t an option, maybe f.lux will do the trick for you. F.lux software is designed to make your electronic screen look like the room you’re in. You tell f.lux what kind of lighting you have, and where you live and it automatically adjusts throughout the day for you. Most people report that f.lux makes your screen look better, but more importantly that it can help you sleep better as well.
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Holzman, David C.. “What’s in a Color? The Unique Human Health Effects of Blue Light.”Environmental Health Perspectives 118: A22-A27. Print.
“UCLA Researchers Identify Brain Cells Responsible for Keeping Us Awake.”Newsroom. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2014. <https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-11/uoc–uri110311.php>.
“Harvard Gazette: When the Blues Keep You Awake.” Harvard Gazette: When the Blues Keep You Awake. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2014. <https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2006/02/when-the-blues-keep-you-awake/>.
“F.lux.” Justgetflux. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2014. <https://justgetflux.com/>.