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Day and Night, or Day and Dim?

Nicholas Noble | January 16, 2020

The practice of healthy living is tough. It requires a well-thought approach. And often a balance between competing interests. The will to feel good, to age gracefully, to ward-off environmental stressors.

Finding this balance means we have to be adaptable. Especially as wellness is more complicated than ever. Things like technology, processed foods, and other synthetic exposures don’t always help.

Instead, they can complicate the problem. One important example is light-exposure from electronics. Such as during the night or before bed. We may not always realize how our long-term health is impacted. But we have to be careful. And sometimes some help sorting through solutions can be good.

Digital Displays, Everywhere

There’s an abundance of digital displays. It can be hard to escape them, even for a moment. Sleep researchers are increasingly interested in the consequences of over-exposure to artificial light. Particularly blue-light, like from devices, during the nighttime hours. There are short-term and long-term risks with digital exposure. 

Short-term, we may be annoyed by a disrupted sleep cycle. We might feel less-rested or take forever to fall asleep. Some may become wide-awake later in the night. Blue-light can influence these types of fluctuations. That’s because we evolved with the cycle of night and day. The sense of light is directly tied to our hormones, metabolism, and circadian rhythm.

The latest science recognizes how disruptive a lack of ‘digital-hygiene’ can be to good sleep. There’s a growing correlation between light at night and common diseases. Including metabolic syndromes, even certain cancers. Evidence extends to obesity risks and cardiovascular disease also. 

Integrative health experts agree that we need to better understand sleep-cycles. Particularly what changes occur due to nighttime light. It’s argued that blue-light (electronics, TV) can lead to low levels of the hormone, melatonin. This opens potential health issues, because melatonin is critical for wakefulness and sleep, which makes our body reactive to it. Yet, light at night is not entirely foreign to our evolution.

Evolution Related?

Evolutionary anthropologists have studied the relationship nighttime campfires have had on our development. They’re speculated in the development of larger human brains, as they encouraged social behaviors like gathering and cooking.

And interestingly the type (wavelength) of light is different from fire than digital devices. Thus, it is critical that researchers draw distinction between types of light exposure. 

Whereas campfire light may influence melatonin, it happens that the common ‘blue-light’ of digital interfaces does so much more profoundly. In fact, blue-light devices may more than double the time that melatonin is suppressed. Granted, blue-light is part of sunshine, but it’s the timing that can matter most.

One study evaluated melatonin levels in two groups. One exposed to bright indoor light conditions while wearing ‘blue-blocking’ sunglasses, and the other exposed just to non-filtered, dim indoor lighting. Blood levels of melatonin between these groups remained at comparable levels. This further implicates the suppressive effects of blue-light. But the researchers point to a possible solution. Especially for night shift workers. [1] 

Blue Blockers 

Are you required (or tempted) to be around blue-light during nightly hours? You might give blue-blockers a try. Their special lenses can filter against blue-light. Which may help you dial in on a better sleep cycle. 

By balancing our sleep, we can optimize our days. Sleep researchers have studied how the circadian rhythm relates to productivity levels. Healthy melatonin levels throughout can also trigger alertness and sense of well-being. However another problem has been coined as ‘day-and-dim’ — rather than day-and-night. The latest science has investigated the lack of complete darkness also. 

We might not be on our devices as we sleep, but many bedrooms are lit with less-suspecting digital displays. Also street or security lighting. Together, these may throw-off our sleep balance. And physicians are agreeing more to bring darkness back to the bedroom. Black-out curtains, or covering those less-suspecting light sources can help. [2]

Looking for more solutions?

Checkout our Digital-Detox plan.

More Research

Nita Shattuck, a fatigue and sleep expert at the Naval Postgraduate School has also studied this area. She completed a preliminary sleep study in deployed, active-duty military. The investigation sought to learn more about the effects of blue-blockers against insomnia. It also evaluated sleep quality.

Shattuck mentioned that those individuals who wore these special lenses during the two hours 

before bed fell asleep about 30% faster. Sleep conditions of the military can mimic other night-shift work. And the findings translate to anyone combating non-restorative sleep. [3]

In any case, most devices have ‘Night Shift’ (Apple products) or an equivalent display setting for other devices. This will filter the light to a red-tint. It’s a great feature, especially if you’re hard-pressed to carry dedicated digital eye-ware.

The Bottom Line

Alongside blue-blockers and good digital-hygiene, the L-theanine found uniquely in matcha can help you to sleep better at night. While coffee and sugary energy-drinks can amplify disrupted sleep, matcha is suggested to calm the mind.

L-theanine synergizes with caffeine to promote brain-waves associated with sleep. You can read more about the benefits of L-theanine right here

Any quality of matcha will have these benefits. However, ceremonial qualities are highest in L-theanine, which is believed to protect sleep from caffeine. All while staying energized.

This makes matcha the perfect pick-me-up. Many people drink matcha 2 or 3x per day, even into the evening. It’s also recommended to enjoy matcha at least twice per day to achieve all of the health benefits.

You can see our 30-day Matcha Challenge for the details you need about daily drinking. 

Enjoy!