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Blue Light Blocking Glasses for SLEEP
Back in the day, the human race spent much of the evening in relative darkness. There was light from the moon and fire and stars. Today, however, the world is pretty much illuminated throughout the night, and while convenient and often beautiful, it can be quite harmful to our health.
This is because modern lighting (unlike the moon and the light from fire) contains significant amounts of something called blue light. Not all colours of the light spectrum have the same effect on our health. In fact, this is part of the miracle of nature: the sun contains blue light for a reason! Blue wavelengths from the sun are beneficial during the day because they regulate our circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle) and boost attention and mood.
However, we can get the same blue light that the sun produces from indoor lighting (particularly energy-efficient LED lights) and electronic screens. Which means that they can be quite disruptive at night. It makes sense: if you’re exposed to blue light at night, your body’s natural mechanism thinks that the sun is still out. When the sun is out, melatonin production (our sleep hormone) is suppressed.
So, you switch on your LED lights at night and finish work on a laptop, scroll on your phone and watch TV once the sun goes down until you get into bed. Your body doesn’t fully register that it’s time to produce melatonin, which is meant to signal to your body that sleep is approaching. It thinks that the sun’s still out!
The impact? Your sleep suffers. Research shows that both the exposure to blue light at night and the lack of sleep could be contributing factors to a range of chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Your circadian rhythm and your health
It’s important to understand how crucial your circadian rhythm is. Take diabetes and obesity as an example: a Harvard study showed that where the timing of a circadian rhythm was shifted due to extended exposure to blue light, the blood sugar levels of study participants increased, and levels of the hormone leptin (meant to signal satiety) decreased. You experience a blood sugar crash and you’re left feeling hungry. Similar studies link a disrupted sleep and circadian rhythm to cardiovascular problems and depression.
So, what’s the deal with blue light?
Production of melatonin can be suppressed by any light, but blue light is by far the most detrimental. In a study, participants were either exposed to 6.5 hours of blue light or green light of the same brightness. For the blue light participants, melatonin was suppressed for twice as long as the green light and also shifted the circadian rhythm by twice as much!
Sadly, we are inundated with blue light in our modern environment. In an effort to save the planet through energy-efficient LED lights, we appear to be compromising our personal health. Blue light is everywhere. There is great software like Iris that filters blue light on screens, and Night Mode on cell phones is helpful, even during the day. However, there is only so much we can do with technology to minimise our exposure to blue light when the sun goes down.
The best strategies against blue light
The following tips will help to protect yourself against blue light:
- To the extent possible, replace the lights in your house with red or yellow incandescent lights. You know those good old-fashioned Edison lights with the funky filament? While not as energy efficient, they are far safer for evening use from a health perspective. It also gives your house an unusual yet cosy vibe!
- Install Iris on your screens and activate Night Mode, even during the day. While only reducing brightness on a device will help with the blue light problem, this increases the flicker of the device when you’re at less than 50% brightness, so it won’t assist your sleep.
- Get as much direct sun exposure during the day as possible! This is a potent way to regulate your circadian rhythm. Quite fun to think that sunshine within 30 minutes of waking actually helps you sleep better the next night!
- Avoid looking at screens a couple of hours before bedtime. The filters on our screens help a bit but aren’t completely effective due to the blue light coming from the backlight, so your best bet is to avoid screens completely.
- Blue Light Blocking Glasses: avoiding screens and light every night is simply not always realistic, and there is only so much that we can do to control our environment. Especially when you work night shifts! These glasses are the number one tool that we can use to manage our blue light exposure at night.
Blue Light Blocking Glasses
The most effective strategy for modern lighting at night-time is blue light blocking glasses. Red tinted glasses for evening wear! When you can’t convince your family and friends to live in a warm red hue at night, these glasses are a no-brainer. And you actually get pretty stylish options now.
OK, let’s be honest: they look a little weird at night to a world that doesn’t understand the dangers of something as innocuous looking as romantic lighting in a restaurant. You’re going to be that person wearing red-tinted glasses at night!
And maybe you refuse to wear them outside of your home, but everyone, including kids, should prioritise wearing them at night, even if it’s only at home and in the 2-3 hours before bedtime.
What exactly do they do? Blue light blocking glasses are lenses that are designed to cut the frequencies of light that disrupt your circadian rhythm, particularly blue light and to a lesser extent, green light. They sit in front of your eyes, so they can protect the retinal ganglion cells in your inner retina. Science-speak for they protect your eyes and your circadian rhythm!
Do Blue Light Blocking Glasses work?
The question I had when I first started wearing my pair was that it seemed that so much light still reaches my eyes from around the glasses. They are glasses after all, not safety or swimming goggles! And while there are in fact wrap-around blue light blocking glasses, the studies do indicate that it’s not absolutely critical. The light coming from the peripherals doesn’t normally hit your inner retina, it is only what you are looking at directly. The normal glasses will protect the vast majority of your visual pane and are therefore completely effective!
The key to Blue Light Blocking Glasses, same as most things I suppose, is quality. A number of companies import glasses cheaply, relabel them and then sell them at expensive prices. So, you want to make sure that you buy your glasses from a reputable place. There is in fact a distinct difference in quality when proper R&D has been invested in your glasses.
Still the question remains: do they work? The answer is yes. There are ample studies showing that when these glasses are worn versus not worn in the same environment, melatonin production is optimised naturally when the glasses are worn from when the sun goes down. I have a pair and I can tell a marked difference in my mood at night, my feelings when I go to bed and my ability to fall asleep when I’ve worn the glasses. My sleep quality is also better as measured by my Oura ring.
Yay or Nay?
As with most changes that we make to our lifestyles for the sake of our health, wearing glasses at night and the perception of a darker environment takes some getting used to. Many people start wearing them and then get out of the habit quite quickly. However, it is worthwhile remembering that blue light not only affects our sleep negatively, but it also directly affects our health deleteriously. Wearing the glasses is a very small price to pay in this context!
No longer the domain of biohackers only, these glasses are becoming more commonplace, even in public! Give them a go for a true investment in your health!
- Thea is the founder of Neolaia – Biohacking SA and passionate about all things biohacking, functional medicine, holistic and ancestral wellness. She enjoys the occasional triathlon, is fanatic about yoga and the gym and loves n=1 biohacking experiments more than anything else! Learning about the latest in scientific research for health and wellness and applying this knowledge is what makes her happiest!
This information does not serve as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is for informational purposes only and does not provide a comprehensive explanation of the different compounds. Always consult your doctor first when making any changes to medication or supplementation.