Thinking Out Loud

Lousy Light Lumens?

By Alex Chavez

As promised, I'm still on this "sleep train" (not sponsored by Sleep Train) and have found some interesting articles on the link between screen time and our sleep deprived nation. I was recently talking to a colleague of mine about kids and how it seems they've become less patient and more in tune with what they're seeing on phones than with reality.

Finding information now is so simple, so fast and there's SO much of it. Don't get me wrong, it's mostly great. I just feel like because we have near unlimited access now, more is expected of us. We're constantly being flooded with information, videos, pictures and being over stimulated.

I still think there's value in going to a library, learning how to use the online catalog and holding a book in your hands. There's a whole sensory experience behind that simple process. The smell of an old book and the feeling of the paper between your fingers as you turn the page. There is also a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when you finish that book. Remember doing that as a kid? The more pages, the thicker the book, the more excited you were when you finished it. My colleague and I started to question the difference between staying up at night reading a book with the light on and reading something on your phone. Why is one being found to be worse and what does that have to do with sleep?

The light that is omitted by your phone is called "blue light". While this blue light is beneficial during the day because it increases focus and can make us more alert, it can be very damaging at night. If you think about it, until our most recent history, most exposure to light came solely from the sun. Our evenings were spent either in the dark or by fire, candle or yellow lamp lighting. Harvard researchers (and many others) have found that while any light exposure at night can have some effect on sleep, it's the blue light that has the most powerful and negative effect. It all seems to be going back to melatonin (the hormone that regulates our circadian rhythm among other things). The researchers found that exposure to blue light vs. green light at the same brightness suppressed melatonin levels 2X more and changed those individuals circadian rhythm 2X as much (basically it significantly cut the amount of time they slept).

The article continues by giving helpful tips on ways to counteract or avoid exposure to blue light. Most studies are recommending to avoid looking at your phone anywhere between 30mins-3hours before bed. That would be an interesting experiment to do at home for the next week. As difficult as is may sound, let's try setting our phones down an hour before bed and not look at it again until morning. Let's see if we sleep better...

Read the article here: Blue Has A Dark Side, http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

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