Optimizing Human Performance

How Blue Light is Messing With Your Sleep

sleepTraining and recovery go hand in hand—particularly if you want to reap the benefits of all your hard work in the gym. That being said, you’re dedicated to getting the MOST out of your training, which means you take your recovery seriously. You:

  • Prioritize your warm-ups and mobility
  • Fuel yourself with plenty of meat, veggies, healthy fats, sweet potatoes, fruit and water throughout the day;
  • Have learned to appreciate a balance of recovery-based training days and higher intensity and volume days;
  • AND, you do your very best to get more, rather than less sleep—occasionally taking a Magnesium supplement to boost your slumber, and taking advantage of extra hours on the weekends.
Sleep, ah…does a body good. In fact, some of the top athletes in a wide variety of sports get upwards of 10 hours per night! However…despite all these measures you take to support your training, are you getting the MOST out of your efforts—especially your sleep? “I have difficulties falling asleep.” “I have broken sleep—struggle with staying asleep.” “I’m wired and tired at night.” “I never feel fully rested when I wake up in the morning—no matter how many hours I got.” “I sleep like a rock, but have a hard time getting enough sleep…or feeling like I’m fully recovered.” If any of these sound like you, there may be an unconventional answer to your sleep woes: Blue light management. Blue light stimulation (or overstimulation) has become somewhat of an epidemic in our culture today. In essence, blue light=screen light; artificial electronic light. And you’ve heard it before: Power down at night (i.e. turn off the devices). Why? Exposure to blue light before bed significantly impacts your sleep quality, because it prevents your body from releasing melatonin (a chemical in your body that helps you sleep). In addition, artificial light messes with your bod’s natural circadian rhythms. While your internal clock is naturally wired to go into sleepy-time mode come nightfall, our influx of blue light nowadays has significantly thrown our bodies out of whack—impacting not only our sleep, but our hormone (i.e. cortisol) levels as well. In short: Using electronic devices before bed (i.e. your iPad, Smart Phone, laptop, and/or TV) overwhelms your system with an incredible amount of blue light, consequently significantly hampering your sleep and full-on recovery from training. Ok so you get it: Blue light no good. But seriously, this day in age, what are we supposed to do? There’s no escaping work deadlines; follow-up e-mails; late night texts with friends and family; your favorite TV show or Monday night football. Nixing the blue light at night sounds like a good idea in theory—but a reality? Nah…you have bigger fish to fry and battles to pick, right? Enter: Blue light management. Blue light management basically entails blocking out some of the blue light to which you’ve been exposed—and has proven to be enormously beneficial. For instance: A recent study [1] in the Journal of Pineal Research (Sasseville et al, 2006) measured the melatonin levels produced by participants who wore blue-blocking sunglasses vs. regular sunglasses. Participants were then exposed to blue-light. The results? Those who wore the regular sunglasses experienced a significant block in their melatonin (they dropped an average of 46%--not a good thing), while those who wore the blue-blocking glasses had a 6% increase in melatonin production (a very good thing). In addition, the participants wearing the blue-blocking glasses were actually blasted with 25% brighter light compared to the control group—meaning that blue-light management significantly affected melatonin in a positive way. Another study (Burkhart & Phelps, 2009) [2], evaluating the sleep quality of individuals with a history of sleep difficulty, looked at the effects of blue-light management on sleep improvement. Researchers required participants to wear either “blue-blocking” (amber) or “yellow-tinted” (blocking ultraviolet only) safety glasses for 3 hours prior to sleep. The results? : The participants who wore the blue-blocking glasses experienced more than a 50% increase in the quality of their sleep,and they were 40% happier after they woke up. With some simple adjustments to your current routine, you can decrease the amount of blue light you come into contact with, while also boosting your sleep. Try these: Wear some shades. And not just any shades—but amber-colored sunglasses. Amber glasses effectively block all blue light, so your brain doesn’t get the mixed message that it is supposed to stay awake. You may feel silly, but in reality, if you are going to be using electronics, these glasses are a great way to preserve your sleep quality. Light it up. Power the lights down at least 1-2 hours before bed, and light some candles in your space. Begin to set the tone of your internal rhythms towards sleep. Pick up a book or pen. Read. Journal. Reflect…unwind. Turn off the bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed. There’s an app for that! Download f.lux (for free). F.lux lessens how much blue light your computer monitor emits, and also changes the color of your screen after the sun sets in your location to reflect the time of day and begin reducing the amount of blue light your screen emits. In addition, you can change the color of your Smart Phone screen or iPad, making the screen darker (less white and blue light). To change this go to: Navigate to Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Accessibility Shortcut -> Invert Colors. Whenever you triple-tap your home button, the colors on your device will invert. Get your fix of blue light in during the day. Go ahead. Text, email, surf, watch…use that blue light. In fact, exposing yourself to blue light during the day has been linked to boosting your alertness, performance, and sleep quality [3] Black out. Keep your bedroom completely dark, invest in some black out curtains, or use a sleep mask. Ready to experiment? Try reducing blue light for yourself and let us know how it goes. Here’s to quality sleep!


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