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Turn it off: why blue light has a dark side

By Medisys on November 16 2017 | Brain Health, Mental Wellness, News

Canada is one of the most sleep deprived countries on the planet, with 30% of us getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night. Our modern lifestyles leave little time for relaxation. You'd think that due to our exhaustion, many of us would fall asleep as soon as we hit the pillow – but that is often not the case.

Our evening TV watching, emailing, internet searching, social media posting, ipad movie watching and other electronic device habits that we use to unwind at night may actually be working against us when it comes to achieving restful sleep. 

Before artificial light was invented, humans spent much of their evening in relative darkness or dim candle light.   Daylight keeps our internal clock aligned with the environment, and darkness helps us settle into a good night sleep in the evening.  Exposure to blue light in the evening- the type of light emitted by common electronic devices - can disturb our circadian rhythms by decreasing melatonin production, and rob us of much needed sleep.  While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light is the most powerful suppressor. Blue wavelengths emitted from our electronic device screens as well as energy efficient light bulbs are shown to shorten or disrupt sleep.

 

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Help your children develop healthy sleep habits for life by limiting screen time before bed time 

Poor sleep health is associated with a range of health issues including increased risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, depression, obesity, and diabetes. Good quality, and sufficient duration sleep is particularly important for children, who are getting more and more screen time and less and less sleep.  Poor sleep habits in children has been associated with increased risk of depression, chronic stress, as well as increased likelihood of having a negative self-image. Not surprisingly, insufficient sleep is also linked to daytime fatigue, impeded ability to learn and concentrate, ADHD, hyperactivity, problematic behaviour, and lower levels of social skills. In children, chronic insufficient sleep has been associated with learning difficulties, poorer academic performance, and poorer coping skills. Several studies have reported that earlier bed times and later weekday rising times are positively correlated to better grades. Also, studies show that those with poor grades are more likely to sleep less hours per night, have later bed times, and have more frequent night time wakeups. In teenagers, insufficient sleep has been linked to depression, aggression and anger, and higher levels of stress. For more information, click here

 

Try these smart sleeping tips: 

  • Dim your lights after the sun goes down and turn off electronic devices and bright lights one to two hours before bedtime.
  • Enjoy calming activities during the evening that don't involve staring at screens such as baths, reading, or listening to music, audio books, or practicing meditation.
  • Sleep in the darkest room you can, invest in black-out blinds or curtains. 
  • If night lights are used, use the most dim light possible, or lights with red-hugh vs. blue 
  • Spend more active time outside during the day (but use sunscreen) 

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