Sleep Better by Understanding the Visible Light Spectrum
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If you are looking for new sleep tools to help improve your sleep, one area to learn about is the visible light spectrum and how it impacts sleep. In this article we'll briefly break down the science in layman's terms, then offer suggestions on how you can utilize your newfound knowledge of the visible light spectrum to get better sleep.
The visible light spectrum has blue light on one end and red light on the other. The cells in the back of our eye are designed to absorb different light wavelengths (colors) and transmit that information to the brain. In turn, the brain will produce neurotransmitters depending on what type of light is being absorbed.
When the brain is absorbing blue light, it is translated as day-time and prevents the natural production of melatonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for helping us calm down and relax so we can get to sleep.
In the absence of blue light, our brain's natural melatonin production kicks in and people tend to get to sleep easier, and have better sleep in general.
We suspect our caveman ancestors slept well after the sun went down and the fire burned low, because they had zero artificial light to prevent their melatonin production from helping them get to sleep.
The problem here is that modern society is filled with artificial blue lights. White lights in our home, our computer, TV, or smartphone screens, and even the bright lights on our appliances and many alarm clocks or night lights, are all filled with blue light wavelengths. It can almost feel impossible to avoid them, but there are actually some great strategies that can help.
We will list these strategies here, but please note that you will have the highest chances of success by combining as many of these strategies as you can.
Strategy 1 - Use Blue Light Blockers
Blue light blockers are glasses that are designed to filter out all the dirty blue light from entering your retina. They are often tinted a yellow, orange, or red color and can eliminate an impressive percentage of blue light so your brain can start to produce melatonin before you start getting ready for bed.
This is one of the most affordable ways to take control of how the visible light spectrum impacts your sleep. Blue light blocking glasses come in a variety of styles, so find one that fits you and give it a try! TrueDark has some of our favorites, check them out here.
Strategy 2 - Use Red Lights
As was stated earlier, red light is on the opposite end of the visible light spectrum as blue light is. So using red lights can significantly reduce the amount of blue light that is entering your retina. Whether you want to dedicate specific lamps to red light bulbs, or use a "smart" light that you can change colors with from an app, there are a variety of options available.
As alarm clocks, appliances and night lights get old and stop working, consider replacing them with units that use red lights instead of blue or green.
Strategy 3 - Use Screen Filters
Many of the TV, smartphone, and computer screens being built these days have filters already built in that you can customize to turn on at specific times of the day. A lot of people are not even aware that these features exist. Make time to investigate your devices and determine if this is a feature that's already available to you. An example is iPhone's "Night Shift" feature.
If you find out that a device you commonly use at night does not have this feature, consider upgrading to a newer device that does. This is obviously a more expensive option, but if you are struggling with sleep and cannot go without your fix of the latest show before bed, then this might be worth it for you.
We built Sleep Tools to give people options for better sleep. We encourage you to try the options laid out here, as well as what we've made available throughout the Sleep Tools website. If you try something that doesn't work, don't give up. Keep on experimenting and reflecting until you find the right tools and the right formula that works for you. Eventually you will experience consistent good sleep.
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Disclaimer: Information found on Sleep Tools is not medical advice and should not be interpreted as such. You should consult with a professional before following any of the recommendations found on the Sleep Tools website. The material on this site is provided for general information only and should not be relied upon or used as the sole basis for making decisions without consulting primary, more accurate, more complete or more timely sources of information. Any reliance on the material on this site is at your own risk. For more information see our Terms of service. If you follow the tips here or throughout the Sleep Tools website and do not experience any relief, we strongly encourage you to consult with a sleep doctor, as you may be experiencing a more serious sleep disorder.