We’ve all heard about blue light.
Something to do with screens, TVs and sleep, right?
Well we are going to dig a little deeper today. Because I think being informed is powerful. When you know what you are dealing with, you can use that knowledge to benefit yourself and your family.
First let’s go back to the original form of light. Sunlight.
Sunlight is very important factor in creating our body’s circadian rhythm. Exposure to sunlight regulates our body clock so we know when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to sleep. How does this work? Our bodies secrete hormones that provide stimulation when it is light (cortisol) and hormones that help us sleep when it begins to get dark (melatonin).
Random note: This is why I always recommend getting newborns indirect exposure to sunlight right away to get their nights and days straightened out. Exposure to daylight is also very helpful for adjusting to a new time zone and recovering from jet lag.
Guess what? Sunlight is primarily blue light.
So what is blue light exactly?
Light is produced in wavelengths. Light color corresponds to the different sizes of wavelength. There is an entire color spectrum of light. The longest wavelengths are red light and the shortest are blue, indigo and violet. If you are into that kind of thing, you can read more about NASA’s research here.
Blue light can get a bad wrap sometimes, but it actually has great benefits. Blue light has been shown to boost mood, improve reaction time, increase alertness and even improve memory.
So not only is blue light beneficial, it’s necessary when it comes to our body clock and regulating our body’s circadian rhythm.
Here is the catch. Exposure to blue light is not ALWAYS beneficial to us. It really depends on the time of day you are begin exposed to it.
Now that our homes are filled with blue lights (florescent and LED light bulbs, TV, phone, laptop, ipad, etc), our bodies are being exposed to blue light at all times of day and night. This can get confusing when our body regulates our “sleepy” and “awake” hormones based on light exposure.
Surrounding ourselves by blue light at night keeps our brain producing cortisol and blocks the release of melatonin – the hormone that helps us sleep.
Thus we find ourselves in an uphill battle when it comes to sleep.
Now I think we can all deduce what this means if we want to improve our own sleep. Turn down lights, turn off screens, etc. This is hard when our lives, work and social outlets exist within screens. So do with that what you want. (One practical change I’ve made for myself was to get my phone out of my bedroom at night. I did this a couple years ago and it’s been incredibly beneficial for me!)
Let’s talk about our kids.
It doesn’t just affect babies though. Our toddlers and school age children’s sleep also suffer when they are exposed to too much blue light in the evenings. (It really affects all of us, no matter our age!)
We can't just get rid of all our screens. (If that is your thing, awesome! But I think for the majority of us, that’s too extreme and simply not practical). But we can limit exposure to them. It’s all about finding a balance that works for your family and prioritizes the things that are important to you.
If sleep is something you want to prioritize, here are a few practical tips for you:
Use a warm (red, orange or yellow) colored nightlight for your toddler
Turn the lights in the house down lower around two hours before your child’s bedtime
Turn off all tablets, phones, TVs, or any other electronic devices two hours before bed. (Two hours is ideal here because that is when our bodies begin to produce melatonin, but if two hours is unreasonable in your house, start with one!)
Don’t allow your little one to use electronic devices in their bed at any time of day.
Put a piece of tape over any lights emitted by devices in your child’s room.
Use a red or yellow light during baby’s bedtime routine activities. (Bathtime, bedtime stories, etc.)
We don’t have to throw every device that emits blue light. I’m not about to do that myself and I know you aren’t either. But we can use our knowledge of light and sleep to set limits around devices and create an environment, even in this modern age, to promote healthy sleep for our children.
Will you join me in setting those limits to benefit our children's sleep?