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Blue Light is more than just a sleep inhibitor, it’s the keystone

There’s so much buzz about blue light right now, it’s clear that it is a major influencer for the mental and physical health of everyone.

Many of us are getting to grips with the fact that too much blue will overstimulate our systems, by supressing the production of melatonin (the hormone that helps us to relax and rejuvenate) and may have come across the term Circadian rhythm – the daily pattern of cues that guide the human body. This is often related to sleep, which is a major concern since sleep is so vital to our wellbeing. But the Circadian rhythm is also responsible for virtually every system in our bodies – from digestion to liver cleansing, heart function to cellular recovery. And its primary ‘zeitgeiber’ or trigger to inform it what it should be doing and when? Light.

That’s right, natural sunlight is perfectly designed to have the optimal amount of blue to gently wake us and get us fired up in the mornings, fading to a level that allows us to settle and ultimately sleep as the day fades to night.

The problem has been the worldwide, mass introduction of artificial light – specifically devices which rely heavily on blue light, and LED which – until now – has been entirely dependent on a blue light source (which is then covered with a special overlay that makes the light we see appear to be white or yellow, but our bodies still respond to the blue). The light they emit is responded to by our ‘non-visual’ system in the retina and these cells are responsible for informing the circadian clock. By giving them false information about the time of day, we upset a series of dominoes that it is extremely hard to reset. 

Frankly, sleep is enough of a concern. It’s the ‘basis of everything’ says sleep expert Sophie Bostock. But new studies are revealing that blue light also suppresses the production of melatonin (which impacts healing and health and much more, as well as being key to quality sleep); is leading to a myopia pandemic in young people; is related to obesity; depression and anxiety; the processing of memory; and even certain cancers.

It’s presence in LEDs (approx. 300 in low level bulb- 16,000 in a floodlight) and screens (approx. 100-500) in terms of ‘lux’ measurements is mostly far lower than that in natural sunlight (approx. 10,000). That is not the concern. What we are worried about is the cumulative exposure and the time of day. As we get into the afternoon and evenings, especially after sun set, any exposure becomes too much.

We are designed to ‘open up’ our sensitivity at night even more. Sensitivity to the ‘melatonin-triggering’ or melanopic lux increases substantially during natural ‘night’. As little as 10 lux (less than generated by an iPad at arms’ length) is enough to inhibit rest response. 

In fact, rest response is not only delayed, but the quality of sleep is reduced – comparison between women reading from a kindle and from a book suggests that not only took 10 minutes longer to fall asleep (‘sleep latency’) but less of the deep ‘REM’ sleep. And it took longer for them to reach the same subjective level of ‘alertness’ the next day.

This stimulus, like a cup of coffee, has a ‘half life’ of up to two hours – which is why scientists advise switching off all bright light, particularly with a peak in the blue / melanopic wavelength, up to two hours before sleep. Whilst very few of us are ready to switch off all the lights and go off-grid entirely, managing our exposure is a vital step towards a healthier and happier life.

If so little, can have such an enormous impact on our sleep, what else is it doing to our delicately balanced body clock and all that this is working to synchronise? Well, the research abounds. We are currently categorising our growing library of scientific, medical and psychological research and insight from all over the world, but for now suffice to say evidence suggests (or in several cases outright states) that it is affecting obesity statistics, ADHD, SAD, certain cancers, childhood onset myopia, and much much more.


To find out more about the impact of blue light, you can:

visit www.ageoflightinnovations.com hosted by Dr Shelley James

To read more of our blogs like this one on the basics of blue light concern, Click here

or get in touch to request a list of a few of the medical research papers and articles we’ve been gathering by emailing info@ray.lighting