Our modern lifestyles leave little time for relaxation. Due to our exhaustion, many of us expect to fall asleep as soon as we hit the pillow – but that is often not the case.
Our evening TV, movies or other electronic habits that we use to quiet our brains may actually be working against us when it comes to a restful sleep. Exposure to light at night time can offset our circadian rhythms. As a result, we lose out on the powerful health benefits of quality sleep.
Melatonin production is higher in individuals exposed to the full spectrum of light throughout the day; however, it decreases with increased exposure to light at night. While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light is the most powerful suppressor. Blue wavelengths emitted from our electronic screens as well as energy efficient light bulbs are shown to shorten or disrupt sleep.
Researchers at Harvard University have linked short sleep and exposure to light after dark to an increased risk for certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, depression, obesity, and diabetes. While the research remains inconclusive, we know melatonin secretion stops very quickly upon exposure to even a small amount of light. For your health and the health of your loved ones, avoid or dim electronic screens to improve your sleep and daytime wakefulness.
If manually dimming your screen as night approaches is not an attractive option, download F.lux software. F.lux automatically programs your computer to tone down the blue light emitted from your screen in order to preserve your natural melatonin levels.
Depending on your device’s operating system, you may also be able to download the software for use on cell phones, tablets or PDAs at justgetflux.com
Try these bonus tips to preserve your melatonin and sleep smarter:
- Dim your lights and unwind from electronics and bright lights one to two hours before bedtime. Enjoy a bath, read, or listen to audiobooks, guided meditations or relaxing music on a timer.
- Sleep in the darkest room you can, or get an eye mask.
- Use dim red lights as night lights. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin.
- Soak up plenty of natural light throughout the day.