Many factors can disrupt your sleep. Busy jobs, stress, sleep disorders, hormones, and even dietary habits can affect how well we are able to sleep. But there’s another huge culprit when it comes to poor sleep quality today: our electronic devices.
When you stare at a smartphone, tablet, computer, or television, you’re staring at different light wavelengths. One of the most prominent is blue light — and this blue light could be responsible for disrupting your body’s natural cues to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.
Blue light — the sleep killer
Many studies have shown that blue light contributes to sleep problems. But this isn’t really news. Experts have known for decades that bright blue light is the best tool to help a person stay awake.
Our bodies have an internal clock that determines many of its functions, including when it’s time to sleep. In fact, the sun emits high amounts of blue light, and this sends signals to our brain to stay awake. If you’ve ever been jet lagged, you may have heard that the best treatment is to go out in the sun during the day. This helps your body’s clock “reset” to the new time zone.
People even use blue light therapy devices to help fight depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is caused by a lack of exposure to sunlight.
We can pick up a device any time of day and start loading our brains with blue light. And, when we do, our body will start to fight sleep.
The melatonin and blue light connection
You may have seen melatonin supplements on store shelves, usually sold near the sleep aid medications. There’s good reason for this: melatonin, a natural hormone, helps promote relaxation and tell your body it’s time for sleep. As a result, some people take melatonin supplements to help them fall asleep at night.
Ideally, the body starts producing melatonin around your bedtime each night. But when you’re exposed to blue light, your body thinks it’s still daytime — and melatonin production may be disrupted.
This could explain why you lie awake in bed after surfing the Internet or watching a movie on an LED TV. Most of our modern devices are very good at emitting blue light — and telling our bodies to stop making melatonin, even if we’re exhausted.
Cut out blue light
If you struggle to get quality sleep at night, it may be time to consider turning off your devices earlier.
In the evening, put down the phone, tablet, and computer. Try relaxing activities like taking a bath, listening to music, reading (a paper book, not electronic), restorative yoga, or meditation. Try to do this at least two hours before bed if possible.
A good night’s sleep is absolutely critical to achieving good health. It’s well worth the time and effort to cut back on screens in the evening to help your body get the rest it desperately needs. Getting proper sleep may even help you lose weight.
Do you want to achieve your health and weight loss goals? At Garcia Weight Loss and Wellness Center, we provide each of our clients with a customized plan that sets them up for success. Contact us today for your no-cost consultation!
Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on April 29, 2019