The Effect Of Blue Light On Sleep

Sleep disorders have become widespread all over the world. According to recent statistics, it is estimated that anything between 50 and 70 million Americans have problems getting a good rest at night. 

The rise in sleep disorders is linked to the generalized use of electronic devices. We now spend a significant amount of time working on or looking at screens. 

Recent surveys reveal that the total amount of time spent watching TV or using tablets, computers, or smartphones amounts to up to 10 hours per day. These electronic devices emit blue light, which can cause disruption in our biological routines. 

Unfortunately, it has become quite common to read, check emails, or browse the internet, watch TV and movies on these devices until late evening. 

As ingrained as it may have become, this habit can have a negative impact on the quality of our nightly rest. This is because blue light is known to interfere with our ability to wind down.

What Are The Effects Of Blue Light?

The light emitted by electronic devices like phones and tablets can disrupt the circadian rhythm. This biological process is responsible for setting and maintaining our body clock. Circadian rhythm regulates our wake and rest patterns over any 24-hour period.

These rhythms can be altered through exposure to elements like light and heat. Our internal body clock picks clues from our environment to regulate or reset itself. In particular, our body clocks are susceptible to short blue wavelengths. These can be natural (like sunlight coming through your window) or artificial. Whether natural or artificial, short blue wavelengths have the same effect: they tell our bodies it’s time to stay awake.

These blue wavelengths are precisely those emitted by electronic devices like tablets, smartphones, etc. This type of light disrupts the circadian rhythm and blocks the production of the hormones needed to wind down. Low levels of these hormones usually lead to fatigue and insomnia. Other side effects include taking longer to fall asleep, morning sleepiness, and poor overall quality of nightly rest.

The effects of this type of light on our health go beyond interfering with our ability to enjoy a good rest every night. When these problems continue over a period of time, they can increase the risk of developing health conditions ranging from heart disease to diabetes, breast and prostrate cancers, and obesity.

Other Issues That Can Interfere With Your Nightly Rest

In addition to blue light, there are other things that can have a negative impact on the quality of your nightly rest. Some of the most common include:

  • Travelling across time zones, which often leads to jet lag.
  • Irregular work schedules or shift work.
  • Consuming caffeine, spicy or fatty foods before bedtime.
  • Anxiety, stress, and depression are some of the main reasons why some people are unable to get a good rest at night.
  • Neurological disorders.
  • Digestive conditions such as heartburn and GERD or acid reflux.
  • Conditions that affect the body’s soft tissues, like arthritis and fibromyalgia. 
  • The consumption of certain medications, such as those use to treat inflammation, thyroid conditions, attention deficit disorder, high blood pressure, allergies, and asthma.
  • Breathing difficulties are notorious for altering the circadian rhythm. This is because our biological clock regulates how tight or relaxed muscles in the airways should be.

Breathing Difficulties And Their Effect On Nightly Rest

Breathing difficulties can be temporary, for example if you are recovering from pneumonia or bronchitis, or they can be part of ongoing health conditions. 

In particular, obstructive sleep apnea is known to make it hard to get a good rest at night. With this condition, the upper airways collapse or stop functioning correctly when you are asleep. In some cases, breathing stops altogether until you wake up with a snort of gasping for air. This cycle is repeated several times over the course of the night. 

Millions of people all over the world suffer from this condition, and some may not even be aware of it. Because this disorder can be so disruptive to our body clock, and given its adverse health effects, it is important to be familiar with its symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Restlessness at night.
  • Waking up feeling tired.
  • Daytime sleepiness.
  • Waking up with a headache.
  • Snoring. 
  • Feeling irritable during the day.
  • Experiencing problems focusing or concentrating.
  • Low sex drive.

There are other types of sleep apnea that can make it hard to get a good rest at night. One of them is central apnea, also known as CSA. This disorder does not affect as many people as obstructive apnea. Central apnea is not a problem of the upper airways, but rather involves a disruption in brain signals. The symptoms are similar to those of obstructive apnea, and in addition, they can include chest pain, mood changes, and shortness of breath.

There is also complex or mixed apnea, which is believed to affect 15 per cent of all apnea sufferers. This condition appears in some CSA patients who start positive air pressure therapy to treat their symptoms. Complex apnea is a combination of both apnea types described above.

Talk With a Sleep Counselor

Suffering from any type of apnea can be worrying, but you should know that sleep apnea disorders can be safely and effectively treated at home. The first step is to get the opinion of a specialist. If you have sleep problems, SleepQuest can help you find answers. Contact us to get in touch with a specialized counselor.