Over the last few years my sleep can go through bad patches and during these times I can have difficulty falling asleep or wake through the night. I no longer feel stressed by this as I once did and I have done much to improve my sleep however I am always interested in research about improving sleep quantity and quality. So as someone that can be found on my ipad watching SBS Nordic Noir of an evening I read this recent trial published in Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics with interest.
The study followed 22 people between the ages of 17 and 42. For 2 weeks the participants wore blue light blocking glasses for 3 hours before bed while participating in usual digital screen activities (TV, phone, tablet or other). The outcomes were significant and showed an average of 58% increase in melatonin levels, an effect that is greater than over the counter melatonin supplements. Melatonin is our key sleep hormone and it signals to our bodies when it is time to sleep. During the trial the participants reported better sleep, decreased sleep latency (faster sleep onset) and increased sleep duration of up to 24 minutes per night.
Blue light exposure comes from sunlight and LED devices. Exposure during the day is healthy as it boosts alertness and regulates our internal body clock (circadian rhythm) essentially telling us when to sleep and when to wake. However artificial blue light exposure at night has been shown to reduce sleep quality and quantity, as well as the regenerative quality of sleep. Artificial blue light activates photoreceptors in the brain which suppress melatonin, which is ideal during the day but at night impacts on our sleep regulation. Less melatonin is produced or it is produced later in the evening, which in the short term means we get reduced sleep signals or get them later in the evening and in the long term can disrupt sleep and wake cycles.
Based on this study I am participating in my own clinical trial with an ‘n’ of 1 (n = 1 means there is only one person in the trial so this is a bit of a nerdy research joke). A very un-cool pair of orange glasses arrived in the mail and I have been wearing them as per the trial over the last week. They look particularly good over my reading glasses! The first few nights of wearing them I was feeling sleepy up to an hour earlier than usual. Time will tell if they are effective in the long term but when I give into the sleep signals I am getting to sleep earlier and thus sleeping longer overnight. So far so good. I think orange glasses may just become de rigueur in my household!