Natural vs Artificial Light
We live in an age where technological developments are becoming so advanced that we depend on devices and gadgets for our daily lives, regardless of whether we are at work or at home fulfilling our personal responsibilities. This technology can include anything from items such as smartphones and computers to games consoles and tablets. The majority, if not all of these devices now involve interacting with a screen, which emits its own light source.
‘Blue light’ is most commonly known as the light given off by electronic devices such as these. The idea of being exposed to this light for extended periods of time is generally frowned upon in the public eye. But this exposure isn’t necessarily always a bad thing, see, daylight itself is full of blue light also, and this is greatly beneficial to us.
Whilst getting outside and exposing yourself to natural daylight is always beneficial, the debate between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ blue light only really becomes a pressing concern at night, when we continue to use our devices in our bedrooms and are exposed to further blue ‘artificial’ light that isn’t natural. This can be particularly problematic for our slumber as the use of our gadgets at this time inhibits the production of melatonin in our bodies. Melatonin is the hormone which regulates sleep and is very reactive to light; and so, our quality of sleep can be affected if it is inhibited, leaving us feeling drowsy the following day.
As Nick Littlehales describes, “light is the most important time setter for our body clocks,” and so we should expose ourselves to as much natural light as possible to maintain a healthy routine. To put things into perspective further, he uses the perfect example when speculating about what would happen if we all gave up our devices and phones and moved to an uninhabited desert island. Without technology to aid us in our decisions, daylight itself would be the only key indicator of day and night and we would naturally have to react to the daylight or lack of, in order to decide whether we should settle down to sleep or wake up respectively.
The natural routine that our bodies follow day and night is called a Circadian Rhythm. It can be defined as a 24-hour internal cycle managed by our body clock. The clock regulates things such as sleeping and eating patterns in a process that works in accordance with the Earth’s rotation, and thus it is a completely natural process. Going back to the deserted island example, in the absence of any ‘artificial’ blue light, and once the sun goes down (natural blue light), melatonin secretion starts and cannot be inhibited. In the morning, melatonin secretion would naturally stop, indicating a clear switch from night into day, and we would get up.
In terms of things you can do at home, we would advise restricting your personal exposure to blue light at least an hour before you plan to sleep, allowing you to wind down. This should improve the overall quality of sleep and your ability to drift off to sleep. In the morning, we always recommend getting up and opening your curtains, so that the natural light can make its way in. One great gadget that we recommend for keeping your sleep wake routine in check is the Lumie Dawn Wake Simulator, which is essentially a clock that acts as your personal sunrise, the light on the simulator can be programmed to gradually brighten in order to gently rouse you from sleep. At bedtime, it can also emulate a fading sunset, which creates an environment where sleep comes more naturally and easily.