Why does blue light have such a negative impact on our sleep?

If you’ve been looking for some advice on how to get your child to sleep through the night, you’ve probably read plenty of blogs that suggest avoiding blue light before bed.

But... what is it about blue light that makes it have such a negative impact on our sleep? Let’s find out.

First, we need to understand how humans become tired naturally. The way our mind and bodies determine when it is time to sleep is all part of a process called the circadian rhythm, which is essentially our body clock. When our body is exposed to only the natural light of the sun, our brain sets its sleep patterns according to when it is light outside and to when it is dark.

When it starts getting dark outside, our brain signals to the body to start creating the sleep hormone melatonin, and it signals to drop our body temperature to prepare for sleep. In the morning, when light is sensed, our body is told to warm up and to produce hormones, like cortisol, to wake us up. But we no longer live in a world where the only light source for the day is the sun. Now we have light in every room of the house and light coming off our phone screens, televisions, tablets and many other household items. All these light sources, along with an abundance of others, are producing Blue light.

Blue light wavelengths produced by electronics and overhead light boosts our attention, reaction times and mood, therefore making us much more alert. While this is great to have when you’re at work, school or daily parenting, it is the opposite of what we need for sleep (aside from a good mood of course). Blue light also slows the production of melatonin more than any other form of light; this is because our bodies are more sensitive to this form of light, more than any other on the spectrum. With so much light stimulation 24/7, the circadian rhythm gets thrown completely off balance, and our bodies no longer get the signal from our brain that says: “go to sleep!”. The result? Restless, short sleep cycles that end up with us being even more tired than we were when we went to bed! But there are ways to avoid this. Avoiding blue light as much as possible 30 minutes to 1 hour before bed is the first part.

This means no television, tablets, computers or smart phones especially. These electronic devices not only put out some of the most intense blue light, but they are specifically designed to have you looking right into them for hours. Cutting these out of your bedtime routine is crucial to getting a full night of restful sleep.

The second part is to expose yourself to the presence of a red LED. Red LED’s are the only form of man-made light that stimulates the production of melatonin. Spending 20 minutes before bed under the glow of a red LED can help give our body a stronger signal to create enough melatonin that gets us into a sleepy state.

Using a red LED during the night will make sure we stay relaxed and it will assist us in getting back to sleep quickly if we do wake in the night. The red LED is a key feature of the Glow Dreaming for this reason, it is incredibly effective in training your child how to self-settle during the night. 


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