In the previous article, Better Sleep and Higher Energy with Morning Light, I talked about how important natural light exposure, either sunlight or a light therapy box, is in the morning to stimulate our Circadian Clock, get our energy going for the day, and elevate our mood. Getting early morning light also pushes the sleep cycle earlier.
Light is the most important external factor affecting sleep, and this includes evening light influences. Light plays a central role in giving the body and it’s Circadian Rhythms strong signals for when to be awake and alert and when to wind down and rest.
Light in the evening affects the production of melatonin, an essential sleep-promoting hormone. In response to darkness, the pineal gland in the brain activates the production of melatonin but artificial light exposure slows or halts that production.
We all know that it’s easier to sleep when it’s dark, but the link between light and sleep in today’s world is much more insidious with the flood of artificial light all around us after dark.
Our environment is typically illuminated after dark, making it much more challenging for our Circadian Rhythms to follow the natural patterns of sunlight and darkness. In our modern life we have car and streetlights, office and home lights, cell phones, computers, tablets and televisions as well as natural evening light such as our nighttime sky, candlelight, orange and red light such as salt lamps, and fireplaces.
Artificial Light exposure after dark pushes the sleep cycle backward toward a later bedtime. This exposure can affect the Circadian Rhythms and Sleep-Wake cycles based on the type of light and the duration of exposure. Even short periods of artificial light at night can have negative impacts on your Circadian Rhythm and prolonged exposure can create significant sleep disruption and cause a person’s circadian rhythm to be misaligned with the day-night schedule.
When sleep and wake cycles are disrupted, over time this can induce low energy, low mood, and many other concerning health impacts including worsened metabolism, weight gain, cardiovascular problems and perhaps even an elevated cancer risk.1
After creating a strong signal to jump start your circadian rhythms and energy and mood with morning sunlight, you can begin to take steps at night, after dark, that will create a strong signal for your body to wind down and prepare for a restful night’s sleep, entraining your Circadian Rhythm for cell regeneration processes critical to good health.
Minimize or Eliminate Artificial Light After Dark
You will Sleep better and wake up with better energy when you take steps to minimize and or eliminate artificial light in your environment after dark.
During sleep cells regenerate vital energy stores. Your body actively builds up physical energy in the form of ATP through the little engines in your cells called mitochondria. You are literally a battery and the cells and water in your body gets charged at night in a similar fashion. The energy for this metabolism comes from your fat cells where fat is converted into heat while you sleep!
By optimizing your evening light sources, you’ll be optimizing your Circadian Rhythms, so you can sleep better and your cells can actually do their job of regenerating at night much better.
When you have Circadian Rhythm disruptions the common element is problems with sleeping, which means you are “chronically under regenerating”, a phrase I pulled from Ari Whitten, a recognized Circadian Rhythm expert. This means you are in chronic ‘jet lag’, with low energy, low mood and a potential host of other health challenges.
Artificial Light emits light waves called blue light. This blue light goes directly into our eyes and makes our Circadian Rhythms think it’s daytime and all systems should be on go! What actually happens is that the retinal cells in our eyes, when exposed to blue light after dark, hold a direct line to the area of the brain that governs our Circadian Rhythms, and signal the pineal gland to limit or halt production of melatonin, our sleep hormone.
Artificial light includes electronic devices such as cell phones, tablets, computers, televisions, indoor lighting, street lights and car lights. We can still use these devices and be exposed to these sources of artificial light in the evening after dark if we protect our eyes from the blue light wave spectrum they emit.
Some solutions for blocking blue light from artificial light sources after dark are:
* Wear Blue Blocking glasses, also known as sleep glasses. They are amber colored and are ideally transparent and will block the spectrum of blue light from all artificial light sources that interfere with our circadian rhythms and sleep cycles after dark.
Wearing blue light blockers while making use of smartphones or similar devices at night can help ensure that your level of melatonin production remains normal, even if you're tied to your technology right up to the moment when you close your eyes2.
*Change out some bulbs in your indoor lighting to orange or red light.Turn off all bright white lighting; This includes the bedroom or bathroom. Have the dim orange or red bulbs be the only source of light. Candles, fireplaces, salt lamps are all natural light and can also create a nice relaxing evening ambiance as well.
*When using portable electronics put into Nightshift Mode (iphones/iPads) or on Android Devices you can use Night Light Mode. These are all in Settings, Display. Some Android phones will use a different name for the feature — Samsung, for example, calls it the 'Blue light filter' — but regardless what it's called, the setting should be accessible in the Display menu.
* On computers or laptops you can download the free F.Lux software which allows for an amber, blue-light blocking screen lighting to come on automatically at preset times that can be changed seasonally.
* On televisions or other screens that may not have the ability to download F.Lux software, go into the Settings Menu and set the color to the warmest amber color offered and dim the brightness.
* Turn off all little lights in the bedroom. Get black out shades if light is entering through the windows. Sleeping with a light on interferes with sleep cycles and causes more fragmented sleep1, and these downsides may be greatest in the few hours before waking up1. Research demonstrates that closing your eyes isn’t enough1; your eyelids can’t block sufficient light. The effects on circadian rhythm can occur even with low levels of indoor light and closed eyes1.
Begin with baby steps, incorporating these positive Circadian Rhythm lifestyle steps into your daily self-care rituals as you can.
Additionally, the c.Balance device offers powerful support for better sleep and higher energy with it's 24/7, automated Circadian Rhythm Support.
Get you and your family c.Balance devices and experience beautiful shifts in your sleep, energy and overall health and well-being today.
SLEEP BETTER and HAVE MORE ENERGY TODAY!
In health and happiness,
Director RedHealth USA
1 - How Does Light Affect Sleep https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/light-and-sleep
2 - How Do Blue Blockers Work? https://drseyewear.com/blogs/blue-light-blog/how-do-blue-blockers-work