In today’s digital world, the amount of screen time we spend is staggering. Canadian children are in front of phones, tablets and televisions an average of 7.5 hours daily. Adults are not guilt-free either, as 91% of us rely on our smartphones for our everyday tasks from online shopping and navigating us to our next destination to keeping in touch with friends and watching tutorials on how to fix appliances.
While our screens are extremely helpful in daily life, they have a significant toll on our health. There’s eye strain, of course, but screen time can alter our circadian rhythm.
Circadian rhythm is the body’s daily response to light and dark. It’s inextricably intertwined with the production of hormones like melatonin and cortisol that affects our daily sleeping, eating and activity patterns.
When the sun rises, mostly blue light is emitted triggering our pituitary glands to begin production of cortisol as part of our wakening response. Warm light from the sunset triggers the pineal gland to begin production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. As a diurnal species, humans were meant to rise with the sun, work outside during light hours and sleep when the sun goes down.
What is Blue Light?
Visible light is composed of different wavelengths, which correspond to different colours. Blue light has the shortest wavelength and highest energy of the visible spectrum. It’s also the component of sunlight that triggers our circadian rhythm the most.
Unfortunately, digital screens, electronic devices, fluorescents and LED lighting are all sources of blue light. For more information on digital screens and the impact they can have on the frontal cortex of our brains visit: http://realfarmacy.com/digital-heroin/
The Dark Side to Blue Light
Blue light has the most profound effect on shifting our body’s circadian rhythm. Exposure to blue light all day long constantly triggers our body to produce cortisol, which can lead to chronic stress.
Desynchronization of circadian rhythms also plays a role in various diseases like diabetes, obesity depression and cancer. Light influences hormone secretion, heart rate, alertness, sleep, body temperature and gene expression.
Shedding light on the issue: what you can do!
- Try to keep electronic use to a minimum in your home. Although it is becoming more difficult to refrain from some kind of electronic stimulation, you’re body will thank you for it.
- Try to establish an electronic curfew allocating a certain amount of screen time per day or per week.
- Avoid looking at bright screens the closer you get to your bed time.
- Adjust the temperature of your digital screens to a warmer setting (with more red tones and less blue tones)
- Soak up as much natural light as you can. A little ‘sunshine’ during the day will help boost your energy and enhance your ability to sleep at night. Skip the gym and take your run outdoors, to help regulate your circadian rhythm.
- Keep some handy adaptogenic herbs on hand, such as ashwagandha and siberian ginseng. These will help balance your cortisol levels and reduce the amount of stress on your body.