Blue light: The key to great sleep and wakefulness
These days, our cell phones feel just as essential and present in our lives as the hands we hold them in. The constant pull of calls, email, text messages, social media, endless notifications is often impossible to resist. Whether we’re emailing the second we wake up or scrolling on TikTok until we fall asleep, our devices have a relentless hold on us.
In our wellness-obsessed culture, you might have heard warnings against the blue light emitting from all those notifications on your phone, especially as it relates to your sleep. These warnings spur other recommendations such as blue-light blocking glasses, suggesting that if you wear them all day, you’ll protect your eyes, and therefore, your sleep. But these warnings are only half-true.
Yes, blue light should be avoided. But only at night.
Seek out blue light in the morning
Our bodies are in a constant, daily rhythm, oscillating between cortisol, which keeps us awake, and melatonin, which makes us sleepy. This rhythm is known as our circadian clock. In the morning, our bodies need light to start this clock. When light hits our retinas, our cortisol is activated and our melatonin is suppressed. This happens because of our pineal glands, also known as the gland of darkness. Light – specifically sunlight – inhibits our pineal glands from releasing melatonin, which makes us sleepy. In other words, light literally, on a hormonal level, wakes us up. It’s okay – and is actually encouraged – if the light that starts our clocks is blue.
The most optimal form of blue light for our bodies is from the morning sun. Studies have shown that getting two to ten minutes of morning sun exposure is enough to set our circadian clocks. If you can’t get outside in the morning to take in the sun’s rays, artificial blue light, in the form of sunlight simulators or even ring lights, is the next best option.
Avoid blue light at night
Once night hits – when your melatonin is activated and your cortisol is suppressed – however, it’s time to put the cell phones and ring lights away. As we now know, blue light activates cortisol which keeps us awake. Therefore, at night when our circadian rhythm is swinging towards sleepiness and increasing our level of melatonin, we can help our bodies with this process by avoiding blue light. The less light we take into our pineal glands, the more melatonin is produced in our body, allowing us to sleep deeper. When we work with our bodies and rhythms like this, we’ll have better sleep, which according to countless studies, is directly correlated with better overall health.
One of the best things you can do for your sleep is to charge your phone in another room at night. You’ll be surprised how quickly you get used to it being away, how freeing it is to drift into a deeper sleep without being bombarded by notifications, and how good it makes you feel.
By going away from your phone at night, and towards the sun in the morning, your circadian clock can operate at its very best.