Capetown Student Accomodation

What’s the Deal with Blue Light and Insomnia?

There has been a lot of chatter about the nefarious blue light emitted from electronic devices and how they can negatively impact our sleep. 

Is this true? Or was this just your parent’s way of trying to pry your smartphone from you when you lived at home? 

Does this matter now that you’re at varsity?

Blue Light and Sleep

The science behind our sleeping patterns (or lack thereof!) is quite fascinating. 

Our bodies respond to light in much the same way as plants and animals do; we tend to feel sleepy at night and more alert during the day. This cycle can be attributed to our circadian rhythms where certain light waves determine whether we should be awake and alert or cuddling up for the night.

The problem in modern society is that, with artificial lights burning from sundown, our retinas still receive light and the production of sleep hormones is delayed. Our systems are a little confused and when we do finally get into bed, our brains are still wide awake and wondering if penguins have knees. 

Artificial light at night suppresses melatonin (our main sleep hormone) and allows the ‘awake’ hormones such as cortisol to roam freely. 

Now we add blue light to the mix, as we receive it from smartphones, tablets, and televisions. Our bodies are super sensitive to the shorter wavelengths in blue light and it has a noticeable effect on our brains. Some studies have found that blue light suppresses delta brainwaves (sleep waves) and boost alpha wavelengths (alertness). 

So, what’s the uptake here?

Basically, if you’re suffering from poor sleep when you need it most, then you need to work with your body to create the right environment to both fall and stay asleep.  Give your body time in a dimly lit room to chill, send out the right signals to your body, and let nature take its course. Read a book, do a crossword, but try to stay off electronics.