Exciting new research has helped thousands of people to improve their sleep quality, reduce their dependence on dangerous and toxic sleep drugs, and restore the important phases of sleep that are critical to mental and physical health.
Over 40 years of research has shown that our exposure to blue light interferes with our ability to get the sleep we need. We’re all familiar with how the normally bright white sun looks orange or red as it sets. This is because the blue wavelengths that are normally visible are scattered by the atmosphere when the sun is setting.
We’ve been programmed for thousands of years by nature to recognize a red or orange sun in the evening. The invention of the electric light bulb, which has only been part of our environment for the past 100 years or so, artificially exposes our eyes to white light, composed of relatively equal quantities of red, green and blue light.
Melatonin is the magic hormone that our body produces (via the pineal gland) that is critical to sleep. If you’ve tried taking melatonin as a supplement, you may have found it helpful, but some people experience side effects with supplemental melatonin, including drowsiness headaches, dizziness, irritability, nausea, hormonal fluctuations and nightmares, especially if taken more than once each night. Melatonin supplements do not function in the same way as when melatonin is naturally produced in the body. Supplements affect the brain in bursts, but rapidly leave the body, unlike the slow build-up that happens when melatonin is produced naturally.
Scientists have proven that blue light quickly shuts off melatonin production. The exciting news indicated by research is that you can increase melatonin production naturally by blocking blue light from your eyes.
Blue Light = Serotonin = Good Mood: Blue light stimulates serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter associated with mood balance. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, so you want to soak up as much white light as you can each day to maximize serotonin levels (artificial light if you can’t spend time outdoors during the day). A recent study found that those who worked in offices with windows received 173% more light during working hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more each night. In addition, those with windows were more physically active and had higher energy levels, while workers without windows reported more physical problems, lower vitality and productivity, and problems sleeping.
No Blue Light = Melatonin = Sleep and a Reduced Risk of Cancer: By shielding your eyes from blue light at night, your brain effectively thinks you are watching the sun set, or that you are already in darkness, so melatonin production starts and you begin to get sleepy. In addition to improved sleep, increasing melatonin levels has been proven to lower your risk of cancer by up to 60%.
No Blue Light Glasses: There are various methods of eliminating blue light at night, but the easiest and most affordable solution is a pair of specially designed orange coloured glasses, which absorb the critical blue wavelengths. There are “fitover” designs that you can wear over your prescription glasses or regular frames if you wear contact lenses or don’t wear glasses.
Wearing the glasses for one to two hours before bed starts the flow of melatonin, which usually results in a deeper, more restful and restorative sleep. Many find that reading for a half hour or so before bed with the glasses on is the perfect sleeping pill.
No Blue Light Lighting: Another option is new LED light bulbs that appear white, but do not produce the critical blue wavelengths. Many use these bulbs for reading at night.
No Blue Light Night Lights: If you need to get up at night, you want to ensure that you are not exposed to white (or blue) light, which can make it more difficult to get back to sleep again. There are night lights that you can install in your home that are orange or red in color, which make it easy to find your way to the bathroom, but won’t disrupt your melatonin production.
Software Applications to Reduce Blue Light on Electronic Devices: Many people aren’t aware that using a cell phone, tablet, or personal computer before bed can significantly affect sleep quality. Studies have shown that using an electronic device for four hours in the evening can delay melatonin production by 1 ½ hours. Study participants spent less time in brain restoring REM sleep and felt more tired the next day.
I recommend that you install one of the free applications that automatically adjusts your display to lower blue light levels. If you use an Android device you can download Twilight which automatically reduces the blue from your display in the evening. If you use a desktop computer, download f.lux (justgetflux.com) and the program does the rest. Unfortunately, these programs are not available for the iPhone/iPad.
Natural L-Tryptophan: L-tryptophan is the amino acid that our body converts into serotonin and melatonin. For many, adding a natural L-tryptophan supplement is important, as blocking blue light will not be effective if there is a deficiency of L-tryptophan.
Dr. Craig Hudson, a Canadian physician and insomnia specialist developed Zenbev and Rest Bites, natural products derived from organic pumpkin seeds, combined with ingredients that ensure the l-tryptophan effectively crosses the blood brain barrier, a problem with the pure amino acid and many conventional L-tryptophan supplements. The L-tryptophan formula in these products is specially designed to convert into serotonin under daylight or blue light, and melatonin in the absence of white or blue light.
Recently a woman visited me to discuss the problems her husband and father were having with sleep. Her father is 92 and in an assisted living home. For many years, he had been taking a dangerous sleep drug, but was still not getting good sleep. Her husband had similar issues, but was not taking the drug. I recommended they try the combination of Zenbev and the orange glasses, and provided her with some reading material detailing the science that supported my recommendations.
The next day she returned to see me with her sister, a physician, looking for more glasses to give as gifts to her friends with sleeping problems. She told me that her father slept through the night without waking up once for the first time in twenty years, and that her husband had a similar result.
There are a number of factors that can affect sleep, but shielding your eyes from blue light and taking a natural L-tryptophan supplement may be the most affordable and easiest solution.
Nathan Zassman is president and owner of Aviva Healhcare Solutions.