Block Out Blue Light at Night

Electronic screens of all kinds emit light, especially from the blue end of the color spectrum, and blue light is known to increase insomnia and disrupt circadian rhythms.  Our ancestors woke up when the sun rose, and went to bed when it set, with maybe a brief lengthening of waking times using firelight or lamplight.  Nowadays, however, we have light, lots of light, in our homes for many hours after dark has fallen outside.  We need to work harder at establishing and keeping to circadian sleep-wake patterns because of the wide-ranging effects they have on our physical and mental health.

Blue light blocking glasses, either alone or in combination with complete darkness in the bedroom have been shown to have significant effects in reducing manic episodes, or in mitigating them when they come on.  In addition, maintaining healthy sleep and circadian patterns can reduce the risks of obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and neurologic diseases, gastrointestinal ulcers, and adverse reproductive outcomes, according to a position statement from the American Medical Association.

The online store offers several models of blue light blocking glasses, as well as amber light nightlights for the bedroom, and even flashlights.  These products can help with establishing a daily rhythm, but for us modern people, the most important thing to regulate is probably screen time.  We are so used to using screens: television, cell phone, laptop, etc., that we hardly notice any more that we are looking at them.  While some of these devices include “blue shade” screens for use at night, these screens only block the screen you’re looking at, not all the sources of blue light in the environment.  In particular, for those who are used to falling asleep while the TV is on, blue light continues to flood your nighttime environment and affects you every time your eyes open during the night.  Try to change to listening to a podcast or music of some kind that doesn’t have a video screen.

On the other hand, the use of blue light blocking glasses during the day is not recommended.  Some people find the amber light calming, and use the glasses to promote restfulness, reduce stress and even take an afternoon nap with them on.  However, experience shows that maintaining the circadian pattern of blue light during the day and amber light, or no light, at night is the best.  Blocking blue light during the day can trigger a depressive episode.

The light spectrum has multiple effects on humans, some of which we are only beginning to understand.  For those with bipolar and depression, managing blue light exposure according to natural daylight patterns is an important non-pharmaceutical method of maintaining long-term mood stability.