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The effects of blue light on sleep

Blue light and sleep problems

As humans, we are designed to sleep at night when dark falls, and wake during the day, as the light rises. However, modern technology is emitting light frequencies that interfere with this natural pattern and make sleeping more difficult.

Display screens on computers and laptops, electronic notebooks, smartphones and other digital devices emit significant amounts of blue light – a light on the colour spectrum that is stronger than natural sunlight.

Our bodies are designed to produce melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone to control our body clock based on the day and night light patterns. But now, Scientists have started cautioning us about light emitting devices before bed as they are having a devastating effect on our health - shifting our natural body clock out of sync.

Recent studies have shown that short-wavelength (blue) light has a greater effect on phase shifting the circadian clock and on melatonin suppression. In 2014, neuroscientist, George Brainard examined the effects of reading on a light-emitting device compared with reading a printed book. Participants who read on light-emitting devices took longer to fall asleep, had less REM sleep (the phase when we dream) and had higher alertness before bedtime (than those people who read printed books).

He also found that after an eight-hour sleep episode, those who read on the light-emitting device were sleepier and took longer to wake up.

So, with World Sleep day this week, get a better night’s sleep, and wake up feeling more refreshed by using these 3 easy ways to switch off without the aid of electronic devices.


Most of us come home from work, crash in front of the TV, catch up with Facebook, check our emails, and assume watching our favourite TV program will help us to switch off. If the above research is anything to go by, then this is not helping us at all.

It will come as no surprise to you then that I am suggesting reading a novel before you switch the light out!

Don’t be tempted to read any newspapers, work papers or learning materials before bed – these are too stimulating. However, a novel will take your mind away from the day’s activities and help you to wind down.


Zentangle is a formal version of doodling, drawing patterns and allowing the brain to enter a peaceful state. It was created with the promise that anyone can do it, even if they feel they are not creative enough to draw or sculpt something beautiful. The aim is to create a feeling of accomplishment and helps to pass time in a thoughtful and healing way.

All you need is some paper and a pen.

  • Draw four dots, one in each corner so the page is no longer blank and intimidating.

  • Lightly draw a border, then draw a string, or multiple strings to divide the paper into sections. These can be squares, diamonds or squiggles.

  • Using a pen, draw confident strokes in defined shapes, not worrying about what it is or what it looks like, usually keeping inside the borders and within the string outline. There is no up and down, so rotate as needed without regard to “proper” orientation.

  • Shade in or highlight areas with lines or dots. Traditionally, Zentangles are done in black and white, but some unofficial sites condone use of colour.

Here is an example to get you started:

Yoga pose - Legs up the wall

This is a restorative pose, great for relieving lower back pain but also helps with arthritis discomfort, menstrual cramping, reducing insomnia and lowering blood pressure.

  • Place your mat against a free wall where you can stretch your legs

  • Place your buttocks as close as possible to the wall. It is easier if you curl to your side first, pressing your hip to the wall, than turn and straighten your legs.

  • If you feel vulnerable, cover yourself with a blanket.

  • Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.

  • Take a breath in and count to 5, then exhale and count to 5. As you breathe out, let the tension release. Your heart rate should start to slow.

Tip: if it’s hard to keep your back on the floor with your legs raised, use a cushion under the hips to raise them a little.

There’s something about elevating the legs above the heart that allows the stress and tension of the day to melt away and is particularly effective for winding down before bed.

'Sleep is the best meditation' - Dalai Lama

If you struggle with your sleep, you may find you are less productive, run out of energy during the day and generally feel a bit 'Meh'. If you want to discover natural self-care techniques to help you relax, drift off easily, and wake feeling refreshed and ready to slay your day, then my Sleep Well, Feel Well series is for you. Learn More.

Sharon Cole

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