Sleep is one of the most important activities that we engage in and it’s essential to ensuring optimal health. Lack of sleep can compromise your ability to perform even the most basic mental functions like focusing on a task or processing thoughts clearly. That’s why it’s paramount to not only focus on the quantity of sleep but on the quality as well.
According to experts, light exposure can have a tremendous effect your body’s internal clock. This is what makes us feel sleepy when it’s dark and energized when the suns out. New research suggests that it’s not just the presence or absence of light that affects our circadian rhythm, but the color of that light as well.
This might explain why we feel a certain way when we see a beautiful peachy sunset or the blue light emanating from our electronic devices. Read on to find out how lighting color can affect your sleep.
It’s a well-known fact that the blue light coming from our laptops and smart devices can have a detrimental effect on our circadian rhythm. That’s because it suppresses the body’s ability to produce melatonin and this gives rise to problems like insomnia and restlessness. That’s also why we tend to have a harder time falling sitting in front of a laptop or smartphone screen.
The PLOS Biology journal published a 2015 study which was aimed at understanding how mice responded to light color exposure. What makes this study unique is the fact that it focused on the effect of light color on suprachiasmatic nucleus. This is the part of the brain that regulates time through chemical signals. As such, the researchers checked the mice’s mental and physical chemical reactions to light color changes.
During the research, the mice were exposed to different levels of light intensity and darkness while measuring their suprachiasmatic nerve signals. To achieve this, the researchers used a “fake sky” setup, kind of like in the Jim Carrey movie The Truman Show. The researchers also tested the mice’s response to different light colors like the purples and peaches that you get during sunrises and sunsets.
The data showed that the mice reacted normally to regular light exposure. However, the response of their suprachiasmatic nerve signals showed a 30 minute delay whenever they were exposed to conditions that went from light to dark without any changes in color hue. This is like working on your laptop all night and being exposed to its blue light and then suddenly switching it off without any sort of transition light color.
This research also shows us that the mice actually needed changes in light color to help them transition from light to dark. So the intensity and color of light has a strong correlation to our sleep patterns because science has shown us that there is a strong link between humans and mice in terms of suprachiasmatic nerve signals.
It’s also interesting to note that LED light bulbs may affect our ability to fall asleep because they emit more blue light than other light bulbs. But, according to the Elektra lighting design team, light fittings with specially engineered LED light can actually facilitate better sleep by emiting a unique amber glow.
Rectifying the Problem
The good news is that there are certain methods that we can apply to correct the problems caused by blue light exposure. The most obvious solution is to work on drastically reducing your exposure. This is understandably difficult for anyone living in the 21st century because we conduct most of our lives through a screen interface.
But, even if you can’t eliminate the use of blue light emitting screens during the day, you may do so at night. Try and read a book instead of looking at your cellphone, resist the urge to check emails or texts before bedtime, and avoid watching TV for at least two hours before you sleep.
If you can’t completely avoid blue light exposure at night, then wear orange tinted sunglasses while looking at the screen to reduce its effects on your biology. Orange tinted glasses help to block the blue light, thus making it easier to fall asleep afterward.