Arits

How does blue light affect our sleep?

Comment la lumière bleue affecte-t-elle notre sommeil ?

In an increasingly connected world, where the omnipresence of screens has transformed our living and working habits, the blue light spectrum has become a growing concern. Over the past thirty years, we have seen a significant decrease in average sleep duration as people spend more and more time on their electronic devices. The blue light emitted by these screens is suspected to be a major cause of this trend. This global public health problem continues to grow, affecting not only our quality of sleep, but also our mental and physical health. The importance of understanding the impact of blue light on our sleep and taking steps to mitigate its effects has never been more crucial.

The importance of sleep for our overall well-being

Sleep is a crucial part of our overall well-being. It significantly impacts our mood, energy levels, cognitive abilities and long-term health. A key factor that influences the quality of our sleep is exposure to light, particularly blue light.

The role of blue light in sleep

Our circadian rhythm, the natural cycle of sleep and wakefulness, is profoundly affected by environmental factors such as light and darkness. Daylight, especially from the sun, contains a large amount of blue light. This light is captured by specific photoreceptors in our eyes, which signal our body that it is time to be alert and active. Therefore, exposure to natural blue light during the day can improve our attention, performance and mood.

However, with the advent of modern technology, our exposure to blue light is no longer limited to daylight hours. Our electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and televisions, also emit a large amount of blue light. This prolonged exposure to artificial blue light can disrupt our circadian rhythm, especially when seen in the evening.

The effects of blue light on sleep

Several studies have shown that exposure to blue light from screens before bedtime can negatively affect our sleep. It inhibits the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Additionally, blue light can affect sleep quality by reducing the duration of deep sleep, the most restorative phase of sleep.

How to limit exposure to blue light

There are several ways to reduce our exposure to blue light from screens. On the one hand, limiting electronic device use before bed can be beneficial. It is generally recommended to avoid using these devices at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. On the other hand, many devices now offer “night” or “sleep” modes that reduce the amount of blue light emitted. Additionally, using blue light blocking glasses, which contain a special filter, may also be an option. Finally, there are apps and software that filter blue light and can change the color of your device's screen depending on the time of day, reducing blue light in the evening.

How to optimize your sleep environment

Besides limiting exposure to blue light, there are other factors that can help improve the quality of your sleep. Creating an ideal sleep environment, which includes a dark, quiet room at a comfortable temperature, can be very beneficial. It is also important to maintain a regular sleep routine, going to bed and waking up at regular times. Avoiding stimulants, such as caffeine and alcohol, especially before bed, may also contribute to better sleep. Finally, adopting relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga, before bed can help prepare you for sleep.

Blue light: a precious ally when used well

It is important to emphasize that blue light is not our enemy by nature. Rather, our bodies were designed to use blue light as a valuable tool to regulate our biological rhythms. Blue light has many positive effects on our body and mind, including:

  • Circadian Rhythm Regulation: Blue light helps regulate our internal biological clock, or circadian rhythm. It is this internal clock that determines when we should be awake and when we should be asleep. During the day, exposure to natural blue light from the sun helps keep our circadian rhythm in sync with the external environment.
  • Improved alertness and cognitive performance: Exposure to blue light during the day can boost attention, responsiveness and cognitive performance. It can improve our mood and motivation, making us more productive and efficient in our daily tasks.
  • Serotonin production: Blue light can stimulate the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in regulating mood, anxiety and happiness. Getting enough exposure to blue light during the day can help us feel happier, calmer and more focused.

On the other hand, without natural blue light from the sun during the day, we might feel depressed, unmotivated and tired. Indeed, lack of exposure to blue light during the day can disrupt our circadian rhythm and reduce our serotonin production, leading to symptoms of seasonal depression, including low mood, low energy, and difficulty concentrating.

It is therefore crucial to get sufficient exposure to blue light during the day. This can be achieved by spending more time outdoors during the day and allowing natural daylight to enter our living and working spaces.

When blue light becomes problematic

So why are we talking so much about blue light if it has so many benefits? The problem is not blue light per se, but rather our increasing exposure to artificial blue light from sources such as television screens, computers, smartphones and tablets. And more precisely, it is our exposure to this artificial blue light in the evening that poses a problem.

Our body does not differentiate between natural blue light from the sun and that emitted by screens. Thus, exposure to blue light in the evening can trick our biological clock into thinking that it is still daytime. This can disrupt the production of melatonin, the hormone that prepares our bodies for sleep, which can make it difficult to fall asleep and affect the quality of our sleep.

How to manage our exposure to blue light

It is therefore important to manage our exposure to blue light, especially in the evening. We can reduce our exposure to artificial blue light by limiting the use of electronic devices before bed, using blue light filters on our screens, or wearing blue light protection glasses.

The controversy surrounding blue light filters

With the growing fear of the effects of blue light, anti-blue light filters have become popular. These filters are often used in glasses, with the aim of blocking or reducing exposure to blue light. However, it is crucial to understand that these filters are not a one-size-fits-all solution and can even be counterproductive in some cases.

Blue light filters work by blocking some of the blue light that reaches your eyes. However, as previously mentioned, blue light plays a vital role in our well-being and daily functioning. It regulates our circadian rhythm, improves our attention and mood, and stimulates serotonin production. If we use blue light filters throughout the day, we risk depriving our body of these benefits.

Additionally, constantly wearing blue light blocking glasses can cause our visual system to adapt to this filtered light, making our eyes even more sensitive to blue light when we remove the glasses. Additionally, some research suggests that using blue light filters could make our bodies less effective at regulating our circadian rhythm, potentially worsening sleep problems.

It is therefore recommended to use anti-blue light filters with discretion, reserving them for periods of the day when exposure to blue light can be harmful, such as in the evening before bed. For the rest of the day, it's best to enjoy the benefits of natural blue light.

Conclusion

Blue light, when managed correctly, can play a beneficial role in our health and well-being. However, exposure to artificial blue light in the evening can disrupt our sleep. By limiting this exposure in the evening, creating a conducive sleep environment, and adopting a healthy sleep routine, we can improve the quality of our sleep. These simple but effective changes can help us combat sleep disorders and improve our quality of life.

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