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Doctor’s Orders: Tips for Managing Blue-Light Exposure to Protect Sleep and Health

When it comes to getting a good night’s rest, taking steps to manage blue light exposure — including using red light sources during evening hours — can make a big difference. The Sleep Doctor, clinical psychologist Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., says blue light suppresses melatonin production for more than twice as long as other light wavelengths, and significantly changes circadian rhythms. Interference with the body’s 24-hour circadian rhythms can dramatically affect health, leading to problems with the cardiovascular, metabolic, and immune systems, disturbing mood and compromising cognitive function.

Seeing the light

According to Dr. Breus’s official website, a study of healthy young adults found exposure to blue light from computer screens between the hours of 9 and 11 P.M. shortened their total sleep time. It also markedly suppressed melatonin production and diminished sleep quality by increasing the frequency of nighttime awakenings.

In addition, researchers discovered that blue light prevented body temperature from dropping during the night, disrupting the body’s progression into sleep. 

Regulating blue light exposure

Scientific findings suggest carotenoid supplements, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, may help strengthen the eye’s natural ability to block blue light.

There are apps that work to reduce blue light exposure during evening hours. Many smartphones and tablets include these blue-light filtering apps as part of their operating systems. 

Filters for screens and blue-light blocking eyewear can be purchased to reduce unwanted, poorly timed exposure, and energy-efficient LED bulbs are now designed to minimize the negative effects of blue wavelength light at night, while taking advantage of those stimulating effects during the day. 

Limiting technology at night

Avoid staring at your smartphone for hours as bedtime approaches. Have a cutoff time for mobile devices, and gradually decrease the amount of time spent using them in the evening. Statistics show that video games and social media interaction are both disruptive to getting enough slumber.

Finally, be sure to get plenty of light exposure throughout the day, not only to boost attention and alertness, but also improve mood and cognitive function, strengthen circadian rhythms, and sleep better. Spending 10 or 15 minutes in the sunlight during daylight hours is recommended.

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