The May 4, 2012, issue of the Harvard Health Letter brings to light an important fact, that is, blue light—the light emitted by our electronic companions, the ever-present computer and LED screens–can not only make us more wakeful at night, but may also harm our general health. Turns out blue lights are good at increasing our attention span during the daytime, but at night we should fold up our electronic tents and learn once more to enjoy watching it get dark, if we want to stay healthy.
Apparently the prevalence of too much blue light—the light that comes from the blue wavelengths of the spectrum, the same emitted by electronic devices and energy-efficient light bulbs, may actually harm our sleep cycles. The Harvard Health Letter says, blue light exposure even “may contribute to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.”
Any light at night throws off the body’s circadian rhythm, our inherent biological time clock… and makes us more wakeful when we should not be. What we do know, the HHL, says is “exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms, and there's some experimental evidence (very preliminary) that lower melatonin levels might explain the association with cancer.”
What do we do? The HHL offers the following suggestions to reduce the effects of blue wavelengths:
- Use dim red lights for night lights;
- Avoid watching brightly lighted screens 2 to 3 hours before going to bed;
- If you work on the night shift (or long hours at night), try wearing blue-blocking glasses; and
- Make sure to have periods of exposure to brighter light during the daytime.
This is upsetting news to those night-owls out there who are able to get some work done late at night after everything in the house has calmed down. It turns out, however, that a good night of sleep is probably more important (on most nights) than getting that last bit of work done on your computer. Maybe some of these tips will help some get a better night of sleep.
 “Blue Light Has A Dark Side,” May 4, 2012, Harvard Health Letter. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2012/May/blue-light-has-a-dark-side/?utm_source=HEALTHbeat&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=HB050412
 Op. Cit.