Recently, I had an eye-opening experience that I want to share with you. I was working in front of my computer screen until 10:00 PM for several consecutive nights completing a project. I had a difficult time falling asleep and kept waking up during the night. The lack of sleep made me tired and irritable. I knew my late nights on the computer were the culprit. I took corrective action to get my sleep back on track.
We all produce melatonin, a hormone that regulates our internal clock. When it is dark, our brain releases melatonin to signal the body that it is time to go to sleep. Light reduces the production of melatonin and our body thinks it is time to wake up. This system worked very well before we had electricity and an abundance of light-emitting devices. The light, especially the blue light from our computers, smartphones, tablets, and television lower our levels of melatonin.
One study found that melatonin was reduced by around 22 percent when subjects had two hours of exposure to bright tablet screens. This is not a problem during the day when we want to be awake and alert, only in the evening. According to sleep researcher, Dr. Steven Lockley, the closer the light source is to our face, the more intense the effects of the blue light are on our brains. This is why he believes that tablets and cell phones are worse than television.
The best solution is to simply turn off these devices after dark but this may not be realistic for many of us. If you need to use the computer or any electronic screen at night, I recommend wearing orange/amber-tinted glasses. These glasses filter out the blue light and make it easier to fall asleep. They have been shown to improve sleep quality and mood. After my recent experience, I purchased a pair and have found them to be very effective. Two inexpensive brands are Uvex and Solar Shield.
Another option is to install a free program called f.lux on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. F.lux makes the color of your computer’s screen adapt to the time of day, reducing blue light at night. If you have an Android phone, then there is a similar app called Twilight.
It is also important to sleep in a dark room. Any light at night can disrupt your sleep cycle. Cover all sources of light, even the light from an alarm clock. If there are street lamps shining in your room, buy opaque window shades. They are inexpensive and block outside light. If you need a night light for safety purposes, I recommend wearing an eye-blinder sleeping mask. (Don’t forget to remove it if you get up at night.)
Sleep is one of the most vital components of our health and well-being. Inadequate sleep affects our immune system, productivity and anxiety levels. Chronic lack of sleep increases our risk of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Animal studies have shown that sleep deprivation reduces bone mineral density. Start tonight and try some of these tips to make sure you get your ZZZs.
Lastly, in case you missed it, check out last week’s Power Tip:
Power Tip #8 | Savor Your Vacation and Help Your Bones