SCIENTISTS are warning of the dangers of night-time exposure to artificial light.
An overwhelming body of new research has found that the harsh blue light emitted by high energy digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and TVs plays havoc with your sleep and overall health.
Experts say that late night activities such as gaming sessions, checking social media and taking selfies are increasingly linked to obesity.
That’s because the harsh blue light from high energy devices suppresses your body’s normal secretion of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that promotes healthy sleep.
Scientists say artificial light, particularly blue light, fools the brain into thinking it’s still daytime.
“Chronic exposure to artificial light at the wrong time of the evening is dangerous to your health,” clinical psychologist and sleep expert Dr. Michael J. Breus says.
“The disruption of healthy sleep cycles is linked to elevated risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other metabolic disorders, as well as to psychological stress and depression.”
Dr. Breus is just one of a growing number of scientists and sleep experts sounding the alarm.
Another is Harvard University’s Dr. Anne-Marie Chang.
Dr. Chang’s 2014 study found that people who used electronics before bed took longer to fall asleep, had less deep sleep, it took them longer to wake up the following morning and they reported feeling sleepier and lethargic when they finally did wake up.
“This can have adverse impacts on performance, health, and safety,” she said.
The news is even worse for the weight conscious, with research finding a direct link between poor sleep and obesity.
“The recent obesity epidemic has been accompanied by a parallel growth in chronic sleep deprivation,” said Dr. Sanjay Patel, Assistant Professor of Sleep Medicine at Case Western Reserve University.
Australian sleep specialist Dr. Richard Simon, MD, agrees.
"We're getting less sleep than we used to and our levels of physical activity have plummeted,” he said.
“Add those features together, and we have the perfect model for obesity."
Many health-conscious “biohackers” have taken to wearing orange-tinted Blue Light Blocking Glasses, which they say filters out the specific blue wavelengths of light shown to cause insomnia.
Their claims are backed up by solid data.
A Swiss study of 13 teenage boys, published in The Journal of Adolescent Health, showed that when the boys donned orange-tinted glasses, also known as blue blockers in the evening for a week, they felt “significantly more sleepy” than when they wore clear glasses.
Separate, independent studies at the University of Toledo in Ohio, University of Lavel in Quebec City, and the Corvalles Psychiatric Clinic in Oregon among others have backed up the findings.
Research conducted at the Corvallis Psychiatric Clinic in Oregon suggests that the simple amber glasses, as well as being an effective and inexpensive treatment for insomnia and sleep deprivation, could also prove an effective treatment of mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder.
“Anything that will decrease that blue light exposure at night will be helpful,” said Christopher Colwell, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“I know some gamers who swear by those orange-tinted goggles.”
Ultimately, Dr Breus said we all needed to seriously rethink our understanding of light and its effect on human health.
“We live in a culture where electricity and artificial light are everywhere: inexpensive and always available in seemingly endless supply.
“So it's absolutely necessary that we stay educated and aware of all of light's possible effects on our brains and our bodies.
“Only then can we minimize its dangers and risks to our health.”
Minimizing The Risks
Use a pair of Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Julia Rodriguez from Advanced Sleep Medicine Services in California says:
“Blue Light Blocking Glasses block a significant amount of light, reducing the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep at night.”
Lower the lights
The National Sleep Foundation advises:
Your body clock is affected by light, so turn off bright overhead lights and consider wearing a comfortable sleeping mask.