The Importance of Blue Light Reduction

bluelight ios

*Image found here

I was pretty excited when I saw the blue light reduction feature being added in to the next iOS (9.3).  For those new to the scene, blue light at night has been found to be extremely detrimental to our sleep cycles.

Modern humans are now surrounded by screens everywhere.  TVs, tablets, smartphones, computer screens etc.  These screens have even wormed their way into our bedrooms.

In the natural world, blue light = day time.

The more we stare at these screens at night, the more we’re telling our brain that it’s day time.  This disrupts the natural release of melatonin and royally screws up our circadian rhythm.

Harvard Medical School says it more eloquently:

At night, light throws the body’s biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack. Sleep suffers. Worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

But not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.

Here’s segment from a short interview from the Scientific American:

Recent studies have shown that short-wavelength [blue] light has a greater effect on phase shifting the circadian clock and on melatonin suppression. In 2014 my colleagues and I examined the effects of reading on a light-emitting device compared with reading a printed book. Participants who read on light-emitting devices took longer to fall asleep, had less REM sleep [the phase when we dream] and had higher alertness before bedtime [than those people who read printed books]. We also found that after an eight-hour sleep episode, those who read on the light-emitting device were sleepier and took longer to wake up. In the study all participants had to stop reading and turn off the lights at exactly 10 P.M., even if they did not feel sleepy. At home, I would expect people do not have the motivation to turn off their devices and go to bed, so they would stay up longer and experience even more circadian delay and shorter sleep times. The effects in the real world could actually be even greater.

There are a few ways to get around this that the BJJ Cavewife and I use:

1. Install f.lux on our computers

This is a program that can adjust your computer monitor to remove blue light.  It syncs with your clock and will change the color of your monitor as the sun sets.  You can disable it whenever you want.

The only issue we’ve run into while using it is when we look at photos or are shopping online for clothes.  I’ll be looking at white shirts and wonder why they look so strange, then I’ll sheepishly realize that f.lux is turned on and click the button to disable it.

You can download for free it here.

Up until now this option wasn’t available on iPhones unless they were jailbroken.  This is why I’m excited about this feature.

2. Blue Blocking Goggles

Uvex blue
The Uvex goggles are what I use.  They’re super affordable costing only $8.82 on Amazon and they fit comfortably over my regular glasses.

Cocoon

The BJJ Cavewife found the Uvex uncomfortable, so she opted for the slightly pricier Cocoons which go for $34.95 on Amazon.

3. Orange Light Bulbs

We also switched out the light bulbs in our bedroom to orange bulbs, which can be found on Amazon for $4.98.

4. Blue Blocking Screen Protectors

I’ve tried a few of these out which can be found for as little as $9.69 on Amazon, but found that I didn’t like how it looked during the day.  Also I could never put it on without getting rid of all the air bubbles, so this isn’t something we use anymore.

To be honest, the optimal thing for us would be to just ban all screens from our bedroom, but we haven’t gotten quite to that point yet.  I’m on call some evenings and need to keep my phone at hand.  I also like to do a little reading on my Kindle app before bed, so having the blue light reduction option on my phone will really help here.

Also, sometimes before bed, the BJJ Cavewife and I like to compete in a friendly game of Tetris on our 10 year old Nintendo DS’s and you can be sure we’ll be wearing our goofy looking goggles while doing so.

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