Next time you’re on the road, pay attention to the rhythms in traffic. As annoying as it can be to hit a red light, they are vital to maintaining a healthy flow of traffic.
We depend on the automated rhythm of periodically stopping and starting that traffic lights provide us all. If we didn’t have these lights as reminders and were left to our own devices, we’d obviously crash a lot more.
Life is all about maintaining rhythms.
Just as lights provide a lifesaving rhythm in traffic, so too does light provide the very rhythm to our daily lives.
Historically, humans were highly dependent on the rhythm of the sun to dictate the events of their daily lives and regulate them, so as to keep them from “crashing” physically. The turn of the 19th century ushered in a new era of artificial light that has allowed us to extend our “daily” activities to hours unprecedented in human history.
Brilliant! But, how do we regulate it? (And, yes, we need to regulate it.)
Most of us are out there trying to maximize the amount of time in our days, and the past 150 years or so of artificial light have allowed us to outshine the sun and run our “daytime” hours of productivity right past centuries of human evolutionary precedent.
We typically extend our time in the light as we segue into recreational time (or more work for the many workaholics in our midst) that largely consists of time in front of glowing screens.
This equates to more time than ever before spent in front of light, specifically blue light.
What is blue light? Why is the sky blue?
Blue light is the light emitted from the sun that causes the daytime sky to appear blue. It’s also defined as “a type of high-energy visible light, defined as having a wavelength between 380 and 500 nm.”
Other than the sun, the most common sources of blue light are found in our televisions, computers, tablets, and smartphones. These newfound sources of blue light in our daily lives are causing us to drown in a sea of blue and have arguably tipped the balance of our blue light exposure to a point of real concern.
While blue light is not inherently unhealthy—in fact, it has various medical benefits—overexposure has been argued to knock our circadian rhythms off kilter and lead to decreased levels of good health.
In short, blue light is not bad; we just need to learn when to give it the proverbial red light.
Blue light, even from artificial sources such as your chosen form of entertainment screen (iPhone, TV, computer, tablet, etc.), is not inherently bad. The light these devices emit can help promote proper melatonin production, increased mood, and heightened alertness, in addition to healthy weight and adrenal function.
However, as Aristotle taught us centuries ago, “moderation in all things,” which means there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Overexposure to blue light can lead to health problems. The obvious insight is the effect it has on our eyes while we are looking at blue light. But it also greatly affects us while our eyes are closed and we’re trying to sleep.
Exposure to blue light tricks your mind into thinking that it’s still daylight hours and causes you to be more alert, thus making it harder to fall asleep and get good rest at night.
Here are three easy ways for you to give blue light the red light and get great sleep tonight!
Any combination of one or all of these hacks will help you start sleeping great right away.
1. Find Some Filters:
Tech companies know all about the negative effects of blue light on health and are doing their part to stay ahead of the curve and make sure you augment the way you spend your time on their devices, not the amount of time.
If you can’t limit the time you spend on your device, limit the amount of blue light your device spends on you.
There are functions on most Apple products, PCs and Smartphones that enable you to filter the amount of blue light you are exposed to. It is called Night Shift on Apple products and Night Light on PCs. Both filters are absolutely amazing augmentations if you absolutely have to use your technology at night.
2. Set a Schedule:
I know this isn’t always the easiest in the age of information, but sometimes we need to schedule time apart. Just the same way we set parameters in any other arena of our lives to maximize efficiency, so too should we set a schedule on the amount of time we spend on our electronic devices.
3. Do a Digital Detox:
This is a slight extension of tip #2, in that it deals with the elimination of interaction with devices that emit blue light. While tip #2 deals with time, this tip deals with place.
Many have suggested, and I would agree, that your bedroom should be a space free of digital interaction. Instead of interacting with your device, I propose that you let your device interact with you. By taking advantage of the latest sleep tracking apps and devices you can benefit from healthy technology while maintaining your natural circadian rhythms.
I’d like to end with one bonus suggestion.
Trade out your time with blue light by literally giving yourself the red light. Replace bright light bulbs with warmer orange or red lights, or turn the lights off altogether and enjoy an old-fashioned evening by candlelight. This will help you relax and get a great night’s sleep!