How Using Electronics at Night Impacts Your Health
Are you up late: answering eMails, checking your Facebook news feed, or posting to your blog? Do you take a long time falling asleep at night? Maybe exposing your eyes to light is the culprit.
Of course, we’re used to artificial light at night, but “the new kid on the block” is the blue light from energy-efficient bulbs, televisions, some digital alarm clocks, and other electronics. Studies show that light entering the eye keeps us alert and suppresses the production of melatonin. Blue light is particularly effective at suppressing melatonin. Melatonin’s hormonal properties are not just sleep-related either. Other effects of light at night could possibly include increased risks of breast cancer and obesity, as well as other diseases. (Read a full explanation in this New York Times article, In Eyes, a Clock Calibrated by Wavelengths of Light or check through the list of research on possible conditions from the Mayo Clinic.)
The New York Times also notes in another article that aging eyes are less effected by blue light, but also that we produce less melatonin even at age 45 and older. According to the Times:
Melatonin is thought to have many health-promoting functions, and studies have shown that people with low melatonin secretion … have a higher incidence of many illnesses, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
So, if you’re over 45, I’d recommend limiting your blue light exposure at night.
Suggested Steps to Take
- Expose yourself to daylight, especially in the morning, to start your day.
- Turn off electronics an hour before bed. (Yup. You may have to give up those late-night movies.)
- Save much of your computer time for earlier in the day.
- If you are on your computer in the evening (or even if you’re continually exposed to blue light throughout your day), consider wearing amber glasses to block blue light for part of the time, especially to help you prepare to get a good night’s sleep.
- You can find amber night lights, too, if you’re up at night frequently and don’t want to be awakened by bright lights.
- Studies haven’t proven conclusively about using melatonin supplements to fight jet lag; however, maybe you’ve had success with this. Let us know. Have you also tried monitoring your electronics exposure when you’re traveling between time zones?