Blue Light – Quick Summary
- Improper exposure to light (especially blue light) confuses your body and causes difficulty sleeping and low quality rest.
- Poorly timed exposure to blue light (light from your electronics) is the most dangerous type of light for your health.
- Uneducated use of light can radically decrease your energy levels.
- There are simple, free and inexpensive ways to use light correctly and see big increases in energy levels.
The Dark Side Of Light
The western world has definitely conquered the darkness – perhaps a little too well.
Not only can we have indoor light whenever we want (convenient, but easily messes up your sleep pattern), but we have so many distractions from electronic entertainment (lots more on that in a sec) that we rarely go outside and get genuine sunlight.
The lights help you stay up late you we can watch Netflix, cruise Facebook, and chat with your friends long past sunset.
This convenience and connectivity is subtly damaging your body’s ability to produce energy and can leave you feeling drained on a daily basis.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my Apple devices. They help me run my business, make scheduling easy, and streamline communication.
But, like with so many things in the western world, the vast majority of people are dangerously overindulging on a good thing.
Light Controls Your Life
You control the light switch, but the light controls you.
Your body knows when it’s supposed to begin spooling up in the mornings, and when it should begin winding down.
This internal cycle is called your circadian rhythm – a natural clock that helps you get through the day.
This biological process is completely governed by your exposure to light.
An extensive study conducted by a Doctor named Czeisler shows that your circadian rhythm can be confused or reset with exposure to light.
“Czeisler showed that exposure to carefully timed bright light over several days could reset the circadian rhythm very precisely, the way one might reset a watch, even when the subjects’ bedtime was held constant.” 1)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2831986/ 2)https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
You can begin to see how staying up late with the lights on has the potential to disrupt your body’s natural pattern for winding down at night.
Staying up late or even staring at your phone (more on this in a bit) has negative effects on the release of melatonin.
Melatonin is a hormone released by a gland in the brain. It begins the process of falling asleep and staying in a deep state of rest. 3)https://sleep.org/articles/melatonin/
Exposure to light inhibits the release of melatonin because your body has been tricked into thinking it’s still day time.
Less melatonin, less quality sleep.
Light Has A Profound Effect On Your Health
Not only can a lack a melatonin hinder a single night’s rest, but long term suppression of melatonin can prove to be a serious issue.
“These findings indicate that room light exerts a profound suppressive effect on melatonin levels and shortens the body’s internal representation of night duration. Hence, chronically exposing oneself to electrical lighting in the late evening disrupts melatonin signaling and could therefore potentially impact sleep, thermoregulation, blood pressure, and glucose homeostasis.” 4)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3047226/
You should also be aware that it’s not just your eyes that absorb light.
Exposing your skin to light can also hinder the release of melatonin.
“Others [blind people] who still had their eyes showed normal circadian rhythms. Czeisler was able to suppress melatonin secretion and shift circadian rhythm in the latter patients by exposing them to bright light.” 5)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2831986/
The age of technology has made it difficult to sleep in a completely dark room.
Blinking internet modem lights, phone charger lights, phone notification lights, nightlights, your TV, and light from the hallway that comes under the door should be dealt with if you want to get a good night’s rest.
You can also see why the use of a sleeping mask, which definitely helps while traveling and staying in hotel rooms, isn’t a sustaining solution at home.
It’s not just light exposure to your eyes, but your skin as well.
If you want to sleep better and feel more rested on a daily basis, lights out really means black out.
Blue Light Is The Enemy Of Health
Not all blue light is bad. The sun, for instance, produces an amount of blue light during the day.
But that’s fine, since your body isn’t producing melatonin during the day time – your circadian rhythm knows it’s not time to sleep yet.
But once the sun goes down, blue light frequencies are the most dangerous to your health, quality of rest, and well being.
Blue light, specifically the manufactured light that comes from your phone, tablet, and TV screens, inhibits the release of melatonin for twice as long as other light.
“Researchers have shown in humans that light influences hormone secretion, heart rate, alertness, sleep propensity, body temperature, and gene expression…blue wavelength suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green.” 6)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2831986/ 7)September 2003 – The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 8)https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
All those times you turned the bedroom lights off and watched TV or used your phone to text, Facebook, or watch YouTube?
You were signaling your body, through exposure to blue light, to stop the release of melatonin – chemically keeping yourself from falling asleep.
While many people believe that using their electronics helps them unwind before bed, they’re actually winding their bodies back up – back into day mode.
As such, it’s important to understand how blue light is affecting your body.
Your Mitochondria Are The Key
I truly believe that the secret to life is having high energy levels to feel awake and unstoppable so you can kick ass every day.
The key to maximizing your body’s energy output is to nurture your mitochondria (stay with me, this will all lead back to blue light).
Mitochondria are the tiny batteries that give your cells energy.
“Mitochondria are organelles found in the cells of every complex organism. They produce about 90% of the chemical energy that cells need to survive. No energy; no life! So it’s easy to see why when mitochondria go wrong, serious diseases are the result, and why it is important we understand how mitochondria work…they also produce chemicals that your body needs for other purposes, break down waste products so they’re less harmful, and recycle some of those waste products to save energy.” 9)http://www.mrc-mbu.cam.ac.uk/what-are-mitochondria
When cared for with proper eating and environmental factors, like exposure to light, mitochondria are what give you the energy to kick ass – even after a long day at work.
They also clean up junk from your cells – improving efficiency of the energy process.
In addition, mitochondria also produce ATP, or adenosine triphosphate. ATP can store and transport the energy that mitochondria produces.
“ATP generation occurs within the mitochondrial matrix, though the initial steps of carbohydrate (glucose) metabolism occur outside the organelle. According to Geoffrey Cooper in “The Cell: A Molecular Approach 2nd Ed” (Sinauer Associates, 2000), glucose is first converted into pyruvate and then transported into the matrix. Fatty acids on the other hand, enter the mitochondria as is.” 10)https://www.livescience.com/50679-mitochondria.html 11)https://www.worldofmolecules.com/life/atp.htm
(Side Note: notice that turning carbohydrates into energy is a longer process than turning fat into energy. This is why a low carbohydrate diet, like a ketogenic diet, can produce higher energy levels, even for athletes – the energy process is more efficient. It takes less energy to make more energy.)
Pay close attention, because this next part is important.
Your body can’t store ATP, so it continuously recycles at a rapid rate.
“The energy used daily by an adult calls for the hydrolysis of 200 to 300 moles of ATP. This means that each ATP molecule has to be recycled 2000 to 3000 times during the day. ATP cannot be stored and so its synthesis has to closely follow its consumption.” 12)https://www.worldofmolecules.com/life/atp.htm
Damaged mitochondria will be kept from making the amount of energy you need.
And since your mitochondria are responsible for cyclical production of ATP, or energy couriers, your body’s ability to transport energy will be diminished too.
And this is where blue light comes back in…
Blue Light Exposure Damages Mitochondria
One of the fastest ways of lowering your energy levels is exposing yourself to blue light after dark.
Not only are you suppressing melatonin, you’re actually damaging your mitochondria and lowering your energy levels.
Many studies show that blue light causes mitochondria to stop the energy production process and begin producing reactive oxygen species (ROS), or free radicals.
Free radicals are toxic chemicals that damage living cells and tissues. This is called oxidative stress. 13)https://www.sharecare.com/health/wellness-healthy-living/how-free-radicals-affect-body
“In conclusion, the vulnerability of mtDNA to mitochondria-derived ROS in response to blue light strongly supports a role for visible irradiation in cellular dysfunction. Such dysfunction will be maximal in tissues such as skin and eye, which are regularly exposed to blue light and thus ROS throughout life.” 14)http://www.jbc.org/content/280/22/21061.long 15)http://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2124541
“The combined experimental data show that,…[c] light affects neuronal mitochondrial function, [d] neuronal death caused by light is via apoptosis…” 16)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0042698906005669 17)https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d125/65703d038abcd8c71a19f5296c9cf79551ae.pdf
As crazy as it sounds, checking your email while you’re laying in bed after dark is producing toxic chemicals and decreasing your energy levels.
It’s also why you feel tired and depleted after falling asleep with the TV on 18)https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/power-down-better-sleep#1 – even if you sleep eight hours.
The length of rest is not the same as quality of rest. Put away your devices if you want to truly feel consistently revived in the morning.
Minimize The Damage
It’s probably impossible to have zero exposure to blue light after dark. But there are a lot of ways you can minimize your exposure and maximize your energy levels.
- I know you aren’t going to stop looking at your phone or computer. And either am I – there’s just too much to see and do.
But I strongly recommend that you turn your devices off or put them in airplane mode an hour before bedtime (the EMFs that omit from your devices are damaging too…) to compliment your circadian rhythm and begin the release of melatonin.
What would you do without your phone for an hour? Read a damn book, that’s what. Reading is my favorite way to begin a night of deep sleep.
You can also leave your phone in night mode – a mode that removes most of the blue frequencies from the screen after a certain time in the evening.
You’ll definitely want to download the free software called f.lux, a program that removes blue light frequencies from your computer screen (I LOVE this software on my MacBook). (By the way, did you know that the colors on this site were specifically chosen to work on a normal screen and a screen that filters blue light frequencies? Some colors don’t come through very well when screen settings are altered.)
These electronic tips will complement your circadian rhythm, encourage the release of melatonin, and minimize any damage to your mitochondria from blue light.
- Get some blue light filtering glasses.
If you work indoors under fluorescent lights, you’ll be exposing yourself to low quality blue light all day long (Dave Asprey calls it junk light, and I like that).
You can buy a pair of blue light filtering glasses that will help limit the amount of junk light absorbed through your eyes. They’re cheap and stylish on Amazon.
I also wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt to work that helps minimize how much blue light is absorbed through my skin.
- Make sure you sleep in a completely dark room.
Plug the internet router in somewhere else in the house, turn your phone off and charge it in another room, get some blackout curtains for the windows, and turn the light off in the hallway.
Sleeping in a completely dark room, free of electronic EMFs, was one of the biggest, sustaining energy boosts I’ve ever experienced.
If you want to wake up in third gear with a massive surplus of energy, sleep in a totally dark room.
For the record, I personally use all three of the preceding tactics every day that I’m home. When I’m traveling (hello from Hagatna, Guam by the way!) I do my best to keep the room dark and use a sleep mask.
I always do the best with what I have without being a crazy person or letting a healthy lifestyle become tedious and difficult.
Overall health and wellness should always be fun and exciting! Do the best you can and be willing to make some exceptions so you can still experience life.
Just be aware that:
- Exposure to light after dark can disrupt your circadian rhythm and cause difficulty sleeping and low quality rest.
- Blue light from your electronics can radically decrease your energy levels and keep you from being a charged up badass.
- You can definitely mitigate the effects of blue light with purposeful changes to your environment, device habits, and attire.
Now that you know what I’m all about, I’d love to meet you. Meeting new people is one of my favorite things about this site.
In fact, why don’t you say hello in the comments or email me directly at email@example.com? What’s happening in your life of health? Let’s talk about it.
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