As a 57 year old woman and small business owner, my quality of sleep has certainly gone downhill. Every night the “I’m awake as if it were 2 in the afternoon” feeling overtakes me, but it’s not 2 pm, it’s 2 am. I end up looking at my computer or reading until I get sleepy around 4 am. What little sleep I do end up getting makes waking up at 6:30 much harder than it should be.
A couple of weeks ago, a 38 year old man came into my company to buy a weighted blanket. We began to discuss sleep, and he talked about how changing his night time routine by incorporating Blue Blocking Light glasses and getting outside in the morning had increased his melatonin production. He said he’d been sleeping much better since starting this whole new routine.
After our conversation, I decided to give these things a try. That day after work, I asked my 17 year old son to help me hop online and get a pair of Blue Light blocking glasses. This is a personal case study from my own experience with using Blue Light Blocking glasses, as well as an assortment of other things I learned during this time about “sleep hygiene”.
First, let’s talk about what blocking Blue Light has to do with sleep.
What is Blue Light?
Blue Light is at the high end of the light spectrum, meaning it has the shortest wavelength of all visible light. These blue light wavelengths are very helpful during the day, helping with mood, attention, and reaction times. This is because the human body has adjusted to receiving Blue Light when the sun, one of the major sources of Blue Light, is up. However, because of the association our bodies have with Blue Light and awakeness, any exposure to Blue Light after sundown can result in total mental confusion. Your body thinks that with the amount of Blue Light it’s receiving, it surely must be daytime, so it should continue to keep itself, and consequently YOU, awake.
Before the age of television and smartphones, Blue Light affecting sleep wasn’t a huge issue. Now, an average phone user’s eyes are exposed to enough Blue Light to actually reduce melatonin production in the brain. This not only makes it more difficult to fall asleep, but also leads to decreased amounts of REM sleep throughout the night, which can make you feel completely unrested even after a full 8 hours.
So, I finally got my Blue Light blocking glasses in the mail. The only difference I initially noticed between them and my normal driving glasses was that the lenses had a slightly yellow tint to them. After a day or so, though, I didn’t even notice the tint.
I tried to incorporate other things I’d heard could help with sleep. I made my bedroom completely dark by blocking any and all light (like the light-up dial on the cable box) and put my electronics in another room 2-3 hours before bed (I stowed everything away at night by about 9). That evening, when I watched TV, I kept a fair distance away from the screen. I also wore my blue blocking glasses (I figured it couldn’t hurt).
Night 1: Woke up at 3 am instead of my usual 1 am. Was only awake for about 15 minutes before falling back asleep (way better than tossing and turning for 2 hours). Felt better when I woke up.
Nights 2-5: The same pattern from Night 1 continued . Woke up later, fell back asleep within shorter periods of time. Faithfully put away electronics and wore glasses when looking at a screen. Additionally, I set my iPhone to “Night Shift” starting at 8pm (more on this later). I also stopped checking what time it was when I woke up, instead going straight to the bathroom then going right back to sleep (okay, maybe I snuck a quick glance at the clock. I’m only human!).
Night 6: Fell asleep at 9 pm with the TV on, woke up at 5:3o am. No interruptions at all!!
Night 7: Drank 2 vodka highballs for happy hour, woke up at about 2 am, fell back asleep 30 mins later. Woke up a bit hungover.
Night 8: Fell asleep at 10 pm, woke up at 5 am.
Now this uninterrupted sleep thing hasn’t happened to me since I was about 38, so this is super exciting for me!
Since this has been such a success, I’ve decided I’m going to continue these habits and try to incorporate new ones as time goes on. I’ll post again in 2 months with progress and list some other things I am trying.
Here’s a list of other things I will be trying to attempt to recoup my former glory days of sleeping for several hours straight:
Reaping the benefits of sunlight- Studies of the Benefits of Sunlight have shown that “when people are exposed to sunlight or very bright artificial light in the morning, their nocturnal melatonin production occurs sooner, and they enter into sleep more easily at night.” Walking or even sitting in the morning light of the sun can help the brain prepare itself for eventual peaceful sleep.
Setting my phone to “Night Shift”- “Night Shift” works by reducing the Blue Light wavelengths that are emitted from your phone screen. To accomplish this on your iPhone, go go Settings, click Display and Brightness, and select Night Shift. You can customize what times you want it on for (I have mine set from 8 pm to 7 am). For other phones, there are apps to accomplish this task.
Changing indoor lights (i.e. other lights that don’t involve a screen)- Yes, Blue Light can come from lights other than screens. The goal is to choose warmly colored bulbs that emit less Blue Light. Depending on where you shop, look for reduced Blue Light LED bulbs or lights. Additionally, if you need a nightlight, using dim red lights as an alternative to a bright white light is preferred (Red Light is on the low end of the light spectrum, meaning it has the least effect on human eyes and brains)
The American Optometric Association makes a sensible recommendation: during screen time, look at an object 20 feet away for a minimum of 20 seconds every 20 minutes (the TV doesn’t count, it has blue light too!).
What I have learned from my experience:
For those of us that read using our electronics at night, the blue light glasses are a must. You could also always read an actual book instead of staring at a screen right before bed.
Another must is keeping your phone and laptop in another room while you are sleeping. Call it sleep hygiene or good practices, but if you are having problems sleeping, just try these things. After 2 to 3 nights of better sleeping, your body naturally adjusts to sleeping longer, helping your health habits.
The best rule is when the sun goes down, cut down on screen time, or wear blue glasses so that you can actually get sleepy when it’s time to go to bed. Also don’t watch the TV too closely, keep a solid distance (something we learned years ago).
As an over 40+ year old, all of this has really helped me. That dancing bear chatter in the back of my mind has eased since wearing Blue Light blocking glasses, putting my electronics in another room at night, and getting the necessary morning light with a short walk or sitting outside in the morning. I’ve noticed that I’m sleepier more quickly at night, sleeping more deeply throughout the night, and am less wired when I wake up. Incremental melatonin increase is a good thing, and so far it’s working.
Stay tuned for further updates, but so far, I overall feel better rested than I have in years!
A weighted blanket also can help with sleep. Check out www.mosaicweighedblankets.com for more information.