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A Simple Fix for More and Better Sleep

If you want to sleep well, don’t do this.

You’ve probably heard by now that you should not be looking at “screens” (tablets, phones, laptops. and TVs) before bed. My guess is most of us still do it anyway. Speaking for myself, I know I do! Whether it’s a late night of work on the laptop or a relaxed evening of scrolling through Instagram on your phone, using these devices can interfere with you getting enough sleep. And, research has found, they can also adversely affect the quality of your sleep, as well. So what makes these devices particularly bad for sleep? Light. But not just any light; after all, experts aren’t advising you to sit around in the dark so that you can get to sleep at a reasonable hour. These devices emit a lot of light in the blue spectrum and this is problematic because it’s this type of light which suppresses the release of melatonin into the body.

Some devices and browsers try to minimize this effect by having their screens shift to a redder light spectrum. Everything on the screen has an orange cast to it. But not all devices have this option. Fortunately, you can get glasses. Look for glasses that block blue light. These will have lenses that are orange. (Admittedly, you will not be making a fashion statement while wearing these, but you’ll get the last laugh when you are getting more and better sleep than the people who might be snickering). I’ve seen glasses that claim to block the blue light that have clear lenses but I’m skeptical that they work. Some manufacturers test theirs to make sure they are removing as much of the blue light spectrum as they claim. The kind I have does this and those lenses are quite orange. Uvex is a brand I have seen recommended and a three-pack of these are about $30. If you wear prescription glasses, you will want to make sure that whatever blue-light-blocking lenses you buy will fit over or clip onto your glasses.

Here’s one key piece of information, should you decide to make an effort to reduce your exposure to the blue light spectrum in the evening: timing matters. We don’t know when to expect the body to release its melatonin. In general, melatonin appears to be released into the body about 2 to 3 hours prior to beginning to feel sleepy, and this appears to vary from individual to individual. This tells us that if we want our body’s own supply of melatonin to help us drift off to sleep at a reasonable hour, we need to begin blocking the blue light long before we want to go to sleep. I recommend that, at first, you start wearing the glasses at least 3 hours before the time you would like to go to sleep. You may find that two hours later you are ready to fall asleep and that might be earlier than you’d like. If that happens, then you may find that you only need to wear the glasses two hours before bedtime.

Research shows that wearing these glasses does more than help people to get to sleep earlier than without them (that is, at their body’s preferred time rather than being unintentionally delayed by blue light interfering with the release of melatonin on time). Research has also found that people report a better quality of sleep, as well. That’s a lot of value for a pretty simple and inexpensive fix. I can tell you that when I follow my own advice and wear my blue-light-blocking glasses, I do get to sleep more easily and earlier. For me, it’s the difference between waking up feeling rested or feeling like I still need two more hours of sleep.

I specialize in helping people fix their sleep problems, including insomnia, without the use of drugs. (And if you are already using prescription sleep medication, you don’t have to quit using it; treatment can help make your medication work better). Treatment is brief and effective. If you struggle with sleep, I invite you to give me a call or text at (816) 226-4678.

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