Science works through experimentation. The basis for scientific theories comes through day to day observation. Essentially, you or I might notice a pattern in life and decide to test if the pattern works under various circumstances. The first time someone experienced digital eye strain (DES), of course, was well before the condition received recognition in the medical community. Before studying the phenomenon started, someone had to notice it.
The effects of blue light on the human eye and brain, therefore, were known before they were understood. In practice, those who exposed themselves to too much blue light felt the effects. Eventually, someone noticed the connection between the cause and effect. Since that time, however, science has caught up with the practical solutions. Recently in Psychology Today, Dr. Michael Breus summarized much of the current scientific research on blue light’s connection to sleep cycle.
The Many Studies
Dr. Breus runs through several studies in his article. Here we’ll outline many of the studies briefly, and link you to the original source.
- The first article linked is a discussion of the connection between light and sleep in the scientific publication “Nature.” The article gives a broad perspective of the scientific consensus on the issues with artificial blue light and sleep cycle.
- Next he points to an analysis on the connection between computer usage and a reduction of melatonin, published by Science Daily.
- His first longer discussion focuses on a study of cataract lens replacement patients in China, in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Those patients had their eye’s lenses replaced with blue light reducing lenses. Patients receiving those lenses reported better sleep by several measures.
- A less invasive example of blue light blocking lenses’ utility came through a randomized comparison of blue light versus UV blocking lenses. Those in the study (conducted by Burkhart and Phelps) who used the blue light blocking lenses reported better sleep than the UV lens wearers.
- For those forced to work at night, the connection between light and sleep is clear. A study, through University of Quebec, wherein nightshift workers use blue light blocking glasses proves it. Those involved in the study reported better sleep and sleep cycle problems when using the glasses.
- Blue light causes problems at night because it makes you more alert. Therefore, during the day blue light improved productivity and wakefulness. This reversal of the previous studies, through the Surrey Sleep Research Center, was performed on office workers. It shows the utility of blue light as a tool during the work day. It also makes clear why it causes problems at night.
Finding Help in the Studies
After reading through that brief run down, it probably feels like we threw the kitchen sink at you. We don’t list these studies to overwhelm you. The point, and we think it comes across, is that the science backs up what we’re talking about. If you can’t find a way to reduce your blue light exposure at night, your sleep cycle will likely only continue to get worse. Dr. Breus also offers 3 helpful tips to avoid the problems of blue light and sleep.
- Limit light exposure for the final 1-2 hours before bed. You don’t need to turn all lights and electronics off, but the more light, the worse you’ll sleep. Be aware.
- Be sure to get plenty of natural and artificial light throughout the day time. This regulates your circadian rhythm.
- If you need a light after bedtime, don’t use large overhead lights that disrupt your rhythm. Instead, use small lights.
You already know the reason you aren’t sleeping well. Take action today to combat the negative effects of blue light!