Yes, yes it can and I don’t just mean if you’re trying to sleep and it’s light outside.
Of course we find it hard to sleep during the day (well some of us do anyway!), but many people are also not getting a good quality sleep at night. Now there may be many reasons for this, but one of the major ones is ‘blue light’ and fear not, it’s something we can all really easily do something about.
So what is blue light and how does it affect my sleep?
Blue light is something we find in daylight. Blue light regulates the secretion of melatonin. When we’re exposed to blue light we stay awake. When we’re not exposed to blue light the pineal gland produces melatonin. Melatonin is the sleepy hormone it induces sleep. Melatonin has also be proven to be protective against cancer, specifically breast cancer.
Okay, that sounds pretty simple, right? When we need to be up and awake we don’t produce melatonin. When the sun goes down and we need to go to sleep, we produce melatonin and it helps us fall and remain asleep.
Um, no. It’s not that simple. Why? Well so many of us have blue light producing gadgets in our homes.
So what actually produces blue light? I’m sure we all have at least one gadget, which produces blue light in our homes. I have 5!
Televisions, computer screens, iPads, iPods, phones with a screen, e readers that are backlit (Barnes and noble nook color) and even a digital clock with blue numbers.
We’re spending many hours glued in front of blue light and not letting our bodies produce melatonin when the sun has gone down. We actually should be relaxing and producing melatonin.
So what should we do?
It’s simple, turn your screens off when the sun goes down and don’t turn then on again until you get up. Try keeping the bedroom a screen free zone.
You’ll also want to make sure you have ‘low blue lights’ in areas where you spend the majority of your evenings. Yes, the blubs in your home can also emit blue light. Get some candles; flames (red light) have little effect on the production of melatonin.
Sleep in total darkness, get some blackout shades, keep phones switched off and have the alarm clock turned towards the wall.
If you need to use the bathroom or leave your bedroom, you’ll want to avoid turning on any lights. Even turning on a light for a minute can stop melatonin production, making it harder for you to fall back asleep and get good quality sleep.
Do we need to be so careful with our children?
We do. Infants start producing higher amounts of melatonin when they get into a dark environment from around the age of 3 months. Keep your child’s sleep environment as dark as you possibly can. By doing so you’re actually making it easier for them to fall asleep and sleep for longer.
Limit screen time the hour before they go to bed. That includes computers and phones. Teens are texting over 3000 times a month, that’s at least 6 texts per waking hour. Looking at the screen on the phone can be enough to inhibit the production of melatonin. Teens have a hard enough time falling asleep at a reasonable hour; don’t let them make it even harder.
I for one will be trying to turn screens off a little earlier each night. Anyone prepared to turn screens off as soon as the sun goes down? No, didn’t think so.
You can find out more about Rebecca Michi – Parenting Consultant and Children’s Sleep Specialist by visiting her website www.rebeccamichi.com