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 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 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.
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.
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 Manta Sleep Mask, as it’s made of natural materials and allows you to move the parts that cover each eye to ensure that all light is blocked.
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.
Celliant Fibre: 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, a Celliant fibre mattress protector can increase oxygen levels which speed healing. One recent study found that subjects sleeping on one fell asleep 15 minutes faster.
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, 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 Magtein (magnesium L-threonate) can help improve memory and cognition.
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 and supplementing with L-tryptophan and magnesium are easy and affordable solutions.