Good Night, Blue Light.
What’s the most common cycle in your life at the moment? For all of us, it should be the sleep cycle (a.k.a. Circadian Rhythm). Yet, for many of us it is not. Perhaps you’ve got other cycles you’re keeping in check that affect your circadian rhythm. Have you noticed the unintentional cycle of receiving a message (ping!) and immediately, impulsively glancing, grabbing and gracefully responding ASAP? Probably, not. Have you ever tried to control this impulse? Maybe not either.
Two things from my side before we get into this whole sleep thing. I believe the best way to overcoming challenges is to understand the challenge better. I don’t always get the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep but rarely do I suffer from insomnia (anymore) nor fatigue during the day – bear in mind that 80% of my days begin with coaching between 5:00 & 6:00 and end between 18:00 & 19:00. In between sessions most time is spent with coaches, clients, and/or managing general organizational operations, as well as 1-2 hours of my own training somewhere in between.
Moving along, I spend a lot of time on my phone which means my hormones are maybe a little out of sorts. Our circadian rhythm requires two hormones in order to function effectively. Cortisol and melatonin regulate what is known as the sleep-wake cycle.
- Cortisol should peak in the morning when we wake and allows us to be naturally more alert – you know when you wake with your blood pumping, eyes wide and ready to take on the world with your pinky? Not always? Me neither. (Getting to that.)
- Melatonin should rise steadily throughout the day but shouldn’t really accumulate until the sun starts going down and the city starts to sleep. Maybe you start feeling zombie-like late afternoon? This may be more dietary related. Maybe you’ve considered yourself an infamous “Night Owl” and feel confident about it? Let’s explore some ways to get you up early and be more productive below.
How these hormones affect our sleep
Cortisol is also considered to be the “stress” hormone which is inevitably “bad” in most social groups. Since when did stress become a bad thing? Stress produces results. Period. It helped humans survive and get us to where we are today – hopefully the next generation of forward-thinkers can bring us to an optimal state. Excessive stress leads to weight-gain/-loss, insomnia, hypertension, and a multitude of lifestyle diseases and imbalances.
Excessive stress increases levels of arousal when we don’t need to survive from anything life-threatening – chances are if you lose your job because you don’t finish a project, you had already lost it because of weeks or months of not performing accordingly. Get to bed and perform optimally in the morning. You will thank yourself when you get that promotion from an extra 40 winks – make better decisions and be on point.
Blue light may be killing your sleep. Here is the low down on what it does to your hormones*:
- As the blue light from the sun enters your retina it boosts our attention, memory, energy levels, reaction times, and overall mood
- The same blue light present in sunlight is used for most artificial lighting – hence, a similar response happens every time we look at our laptops, cellphones, or other LED and fluorescent lights
- These lights suppress melatonin production in the brain, transforming us into Night-Owls
- This reduces our quality of sleep and risk of adverse health effects increase as mentioned above
How to improve your sleep quality in 2019
- Cheapest methods:
- Get out in nature – go fire a hike, swim, or picnic in nature’s playground and enjoy the outdoors alone or with some friends
- Spend actual face time with people even if you aren’t a social butterfly – one-on-one coffee catch-ups are great for anyone, even if it’s with yourself and you decide to do some people-watching
- Check if your phone has been updated and has a night shift or yellow light mode (iPhone or Android)
- Invest in some blue light-blocking glasses (see image above)
- Latest trends indicate screen protectors for phones, laptops, and televisions (click here for some options in South Africa)
We have many stressors in our lives that affect our hormone balance bedsides this blue light problem that increase our cortisol levels. Knowing blue light to be an influencer in hormonal imbalance, we can use new technologies to create some balance. However, finding ways to reduce work-life-activity stress is just as important, if not more important to find holistic balance. Glasses and screen protectors treat the symptoms, mindfulness and activity-balance treat the cause. Say good-night to blue light, and sleep tight tonight.
*compiled using information from the following articles:
11 Wellness Trends to Watch in 2019, Mind Body Green
How Blue Light Affects Your Eyes and Brain, Levin Eye Care
Sleeping Your Way to the Top of the Productivity Ladder, Productivity! Magazine