Exposure to artificial light is one of the largest often-overlooked health risks of living in the 21st century. Your early ancestors had no such worries, as their day started and ended with the rise and fall of the sun, which synchronized perfectly with their circadian rhythm.
Today, your body is still attuned to this internal clock. In the morning, bright, blue-light-rich sunlight signals to your body that it’s time to wake up. At night, as the sun sets, darkness should signal to your body that it’s time to sleep.
The problem is that most people living in developed countries no longer go to sleep when the sun sets.
Instead, we turn on LED lights, computers, televisions, tablets and smartphones, all of which expose us to varying amounts of blue light at a time of day when there’s supposed to be next to none. Your body is understandably confused as a result.
It’s now becoming clear that one of the least expensive and simplest ways to protect your body’s internal rhythm, and thereby support healthy sleep and a lowered risk of many chronic diseases, is to wear blue-light-blocking glasses not just at night but anytime you are exposed to artificial lights.
I found an effective Uvex model (S1933X) on Amazon that costs less than $10. I recommend purchasing a pair for everyone in your household and putting them on at dusk, as the sun sets.
I call them reverse sunglasses and wear them indoors in most commercial buildings that have their lights on and then I remove them the moment I go outdoors.
While you could alternatively buy special light bulbs for evening use and install programs to lower blue-light on your electronic devices at night, one $10 pair of amber glasses does the same thing for far less money and hassle.
The benefits of blue-blocking glasses are immense and varied. In my view the primary benefit is to prevent damage to the DHA essential fat in your retinal pigmented epithelium which is responsible for converting sunlight into vital DC electric current your body needs.
Additionally blue light will increase the distance of the proteins in the respiratory electron transport chain in your mitochondria making them far less efficient in producing mitochondria.
Additionally, in one recent study published in Bipolar Disorders, for instance, use of such glasses for one week led to “knock-your-socks-off results” among people with bipolar disorder.
Those who wore blue-blocking orange-tinted glasses from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. for seven days had significant improvements in symptoms of mania compared to those who wore clear glasses. What’s more, the improvements began after just three nights of use.
The dramatic results make sense in light of the relatively recent discovery of intrinsically photo-responsive retinal ganglion cells, which are receptors in your eyes that detect only blue light.
These receptors communicate with areas of your brain linked to control of your biological clock (hypothalamus) as well as mood and emotions (the limbic system).
In 2009, research published in Chronobiology International similarly found dramatic improvements in insomnia and mood in about half of bipolar patients who wore blue-blocking glasses.
Chronotherapeutics refers to therapies that shift sleep and wake times or otherwise treat a person according to his or her internal clocks in order to improve health and prevent disease.
The importance of such treatments, including paying attention to light-dark cycles and their impact on human health, is becoming increasingly known. Take, for instance, a recent animal study published in Current Biology.
When mice were exposed to continuous artificial light for five months, it led to many adverse effects on their health, including pro-inflammatory activation of the immune system, muscle loss and signs of osteoporosis.
Importantly, when the natural light-dark cycle was restored, the mice rapidly returned to normal within a period of two weeks. The researchers noted, “These findings strongly suggest that a disrupted circadian rhythm reversibly induces detrimental effects on multiple biological processes.
Artificial blue light should be avoided at all times, not just at night. It’s important to understand that exposure to full-spectrum natural light from the sun (which naturally contains some blue light) during the day is balanced with red light and actually beneficial and necessary for resetting your internal clock.
If you want to get good sleep, in particular, you have to have properly aligned circadian rhythms, and step No. 1 is to make sure you get a sufficient dose of bright light exposure during the daytime. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you’re in darkness all day long, your body can’t appreciate the difference and will not optimize melatonin production.
Ideally, to help your circadian system reset itself, get at least 10 to 15 minutes of light first thing in the morning. This will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals later on.
Then, around solar noon, get another “dose” of at least 30 minutes’ worth of sunlight. A full hour or more would be even better. If your schedule is such that you have to get up and arrive at work before sunrise, aim to get at least that half hour of bright sunlight sometime during the day.