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The Blue Light Switch for Improved Sleep


Exciting new research has helped thousands of people improve their sleep quality, reduce their dependence on dangerous drugs, and restore the important phases of sleep that are critical to mental and physical health.

Over 40 years of research has shown that our exposure to blue light interferes with our ability to get the sleep we need. We're all familiar with how bright white sunlight turns to orange and red as it sets. This is because the blue wavelengths are scattered by the atmosphere when the sun is setting. We've been programmed for thousands of years by nature to recognize and respond to this red light from the sun in the evening. The electric light bulb has only been part of our environment for the past 100 years or so. It's now part of our daily routine to be artificially exposed to white 'day' light at night.

White light is composed of relatively equal quantities of red, green, and blue. Scientists have shown that the blue portion shuts off the production of melatonin, so you can boost levels of this hormone that prepares us for sleep by blocking blue light (or all light) from your eyes.

Blue Light = Serotonin = Good Mood

Blue light stimulates serotonin, the "feel-good" neurotransmitter associated with mood balance. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, so you want to soak up as much regular white light during the day as possible to maximize serotonin levels. A recent study found that those who worked in offices with windows received 173% more light during working hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more each night. Those with windows were more active and had higher energy levels, while workers without windows reported more physical problems, lower vitality, and problems sleeping.

No Blue (or White) Light = Melatonin = Sleep

Melatonin is the magic hormone that our body produces that is so critical to sleep. If you've tried taking melatonin as a supplement, you may have found it helpful, but some people (including me) experience side effects including drowsiness, headaches, irritability, nausea, and nightmares. Melatonin supplements do not function in the same way as when melatonin is produced naturally in the body.

Uvex Orange Glasses

By shielding your eyes from blue light at night, your brain thinks you are watching the sun set, or that you are already in darkness, so melatonin production starts and you begin to get sleepy. In addition to improved sleep, increasing melatonin levels has been shown to lower the risk of cancer by up to 60%, and cut the risk of type 2 diabetes in half.

Glasses: There are various methods of eliminating blue light at night, but an easy and affordable solution is a pair of specially-designed orange-coloured glasses that absorb the blue wavelengths. Wearing the glasses for an hour or two before bed starts the flow of melatonin which can lead to deeper, more restful, and restorative sleep.

Lighting: I recommend installing light bulbs designed to reduce the blue portion of light in bedroom lighting fixtures and night table lamps. If you read in bed, innovative bulbs like Relax from MiracleLED are perfect for helping you wind down and fall asleep.

If you can’t find this type of bulb, choose the lowest colour temperature possible (3000 Kelvin or lower), as the higher the Kelvin temperature, the greater the percentage of blue in the light source.

Eye Shades: If you don't have blinds that shield your bedroom from all ambient light, I recommend using eye shades. One of the most interesting new products is the Illumy Sleep and Wake Mask, a comfortable pair of eye shades that emit red light to help you fall asleep with a simulated sunset, and gently wake you up in the morning with blue light. I also like the Sound Oasis 2000SE 'Glo to Sleep’ mask as it features soft blue or red LED lights that can help you fall asleep.

F.lux Software

Software: Using a phone, tablet, or computer before bed can significantly affect sleep quality, as these screens produce high levels of blue light. I recommend installing one of the free applications that automatically adjust displays to reduce the disruptive blue light emission. ‘Twilight' works on Android devices to turn down the blue in the evening. Download ‘f.lux' for your laptop or desktop computer - the program does the rest.

It’s best to avoid using electronic devices of all kinds for at least three hours before bed. Similarly, I also recommend having a minimum of three hours between your last meal and bedtime to avoid digestive disruption to your sleep routine.

Celliant Fibre: An FDA-approved Class 1 medical device available in mattress and pillow protectors, Celliant fibre converts body heat into infrared energy (a wavelength outside the visible light spectrum) and emits it back into the body. Made of special minerals that provide benefits even when covered by layers of fabric, Celliant fibre mattress and pillow protectors help regulate body temperature, making you more comfortable, while increasing oxygen levels which facilitate healing

Recent studies found that subjects sleeping on Celliant fell asleep 15 minutes faster, achieved an average of 18.3 more minutes of sleep each night, and showed an average increase of 8.5% in tissue oxygenation (resulting in more energy, and waking up feeling rejuvenated). I have found the most restorative sleep by combining a Celliant fibre mattress topper and pillow protector with an earthing sheet and pillow case. Earthing works to reduce the number of free radicals present in the body, potentially helping to relieve inflammation and other ailments.

L-Tryptophan: L-tryptophan is the amino acid that our body converts into serotonin and melatonin. Supplementing with L-tryptophan is important for many people, as blocking blue light may not be effective if there is a deficiency. I recommend Zenbev, a natural supplement developed by Dr. Craig Hudson made from defatted pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are nature's richest source of L-tryptophan and are also high in magnesium and zinc. L-tryptophan converts to serotonin under daylight (exposure to blue light), and to melatonin in darkness (or the absence of blue light).

Magnesium: Magnesium has also been shown to help with sleep, with some researchers calling it "the new melatonin." Recent studies have found that it can be especially effective when combined with zinc and vitamin B6, which facilitate the conversion of L-tryptophan to melatonin. If you're choosing a magnesium supplement for sleep, I recommend Magtein (magnesium L-threonate), an exciting new form that more effectively crosses the blood-brain barrier. Developed by a Nobel Prize-winning physicist at MIT, research has also shown that magnesium L-threonate can help improve memory and cognition.

NOW Sleep Supplement

Herbs and Amino Acids

There are a variety of herbs and amino acids that help many achieve a better night’s sleep including valerian, hops, passion flower, California poppy, lemon balm, Skullcap, loquat fruit, schisandra, GABA, and L-theanine. Healthology Sleep Great Sleep Formula, AOR Ortho-Sleep, Pure Encapsulations Best-Rest, NOW Sleep, and the new NOW Sleep Regimen 3-in-1 Blend (designed to help you fall and stay asleep) are all excellent natural formulas.

Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

Author of “Why We Sleep”, Matthew Walker recommends avoiding coffee, which has a 12 hour quarter-life, meaning that 12 hours after consumption, 25% of the caffeine is still in our blood stream (enough to affect sleep). Drinking alcohol at night affects the important REM stage of sleep, so if you are having trouble sleeping, be sure to avoid coffee and alcohol in the evening. Walker also recommends maintaining a bedroom temperature between 62-65 °F (16-18 °C).

A customer once approached me to discuss the sleeping problems her husband and father were having. Her father was 92 and in an assisted living home. For many years he had been taking a dangerous sleep drug but was still not getting quality sleep. Her husband had similar issues but was not taking the drug. I recommended they both try the combination of Zenbev, install Relax bulbs in the bedroom, and wear the orange glasses before bedtime. The next day she returned with her sister, a physician, to tell me that their father had slept through the night without waking up once for the first time in twenty years, and that her husband had experienced a similar result.

There are many factors that can affect and improve sleep, but shielding your eyes from blue light, sleeping on Celliant fibre, exercising regularly, avoiding coffee and alcohol, and supplementing with L-tryptophan, magnesium, and relaxation-promoting herbs are easy and affordable solutions.

Health Disclaimer. Copyright ©2015-2022. First published in 2015, last major revision in October 2022. Nathan Zassman is a trained nutrition practitioner and the owner of Aviva Natural Health Solutions.

More: See our selection of organic beds and bedding, as well as other nutritional supplements formulated to help you sleep.