Light in the blue wavelengths is your body's biological signal that it is daytime. This has a cascade of effects, beginning with suppressing melatonin and delaying sleep.
You will often see generic recommendations that you should decrease the amount of blue light in the evenings to sleep well. How exactly to you go about doing that without throwing out everything from this century and going back to candle light?!?
Here are a couple of practical ways to decrease blue light at night in your home:
- Switch out your light bulbs in your table lamps to the new LED bulbs that are labeled as 'candle' or antique Edison bulbs. There are many options available these days, but look for ones that are both an orange-ish light and also have the glass coated with a yellow-ish coating.
2. Switch off your overhead lights at night and just go with the table lamps with the antique bulbs. This accomplishes two things: first, the shift in the color of light away from the blue spectrum; and second, it moves the angle of the lighting to be lower down and hitting your eye from below. This actually matters due to the location of the photo receptors in your eyes.
You may need to buy lamps for the rooms that you regularly use in the evening. If so, look for ones with a lamp shade instead of the kind that shine up at the ceiling. This doesn't have to be expensive! Thrift shop lamps and a can of spray paint will often do the trick, or there are inexpensive options on Amazon.
3. Cut out the blue light from screens.
Easy to say, but harder to implement. The simplest solution here is to shut off the TV, turn off the laptop, put away the iPad or e-reader, and shut down your phone. Simple, but not practical. Sure, it may work for a few nights while you snuggle up in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea and a good book.
But really? Are you going to stick with no electronics at night for the long term? A practical solution to this is to get some blue blocking glasses if you are going to watch TV or use a laptop at night.
You need true blue-blocking glasses that filter out 100% of blue light in the ~480 nm light spectrum. Just getting video gaming glasses doesn't really cut it. Below is one option, but shop around. Amazon has lots of different designs that don't have to make you look like a dork.
4. Block out streetlight and neighbor's lights.
Put up some blackout curtains or blackout shades to eliminate all of the artificial light streaming through your windows at night. While streetlights may cut down on crime, they are annoyingly bright these days. Cities around the globe are saving money on electricity by switching over to very bright white LED bulbs for their streetlights. Great for saving electricity and cutting down on crime, but bad for anyone who has to live and sleep near them.
Here's your challenge for this week:
Switch on only lamps with antique bulbs in the evening. No bright overhead lights at all.
If you don't have blue-blocking glasses, turn off everything with a screen for two hours before bed. If you normally head to bed around 10 pm, this means shutting off the TV, laptop, and phone around 8 pm. Plan ahead and have something to do – read a book, listen to an audio book, work on a hobby or craft, wash the dishes, put away laundry...
It takes a couple of days for your internal clock and melatonin production to adjust. But after a couple of days you should notice that you are relaxed and sleeping like a log each night. What are some of the benefits of naturally increased melatonin production at night? Improved overall health! Light at night is linked to increased risk for obesity, breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. If the long-term consequences aren't enough to motivate you, perhaps the immediate feeling of getting out of bed in the morning refreshed, mentally clear, and ready for the day will get you on the right track.