How to Combat Growing Exposure to Blue Light

How to Combat Growing Exposure to Blue Light

If you’re like most people working today, you wrap up your mundane 9-to-5 job, head home, and then plop down on the couch to unwind. While you’re decompressing from the various stressors of the day, you most likely do one of three things:

  • Watch TV
  • Check social media on your portable device
  • Read an e-book

Each of these evening pastimes provides a way for you to “unplug” from the happenings of your daily life and relax (well, except social media, which actually makes you more stressed). [1][2] What you don’t realize though is that in your efforts to “unplug” you’re still staying plugged in. TVs, smartphones, tablets, e-book readers, and all other forms of electronic lighting, great though they may be, are secretly destroying your ability to get a good night’s sleep!

How can this be?

A little something called blue light, and if you’re one of those people finding it increasingly harder to sleep at night, even though you’re exhausted by end of the day, then pay attention, because this article is for you!

What is Blue Light?

In simple terms, blue light is a part of that light you see all around you.

A more “non-simple” explanation of what blue light is goes like this:

Light is composed of itty, bitty, microscopic electromagnetic particles that travel in waves. These waves produce energy, which vary in length and potency (strength). Shorter wavelengths are more energetic (pack more energy) than longer wavelengths.

Wavelengths are measured in nanometers (nm), with 1 nanometer being equivalent to 1 billionth of a meter (1.0 × 10-9 meters), remember we did say light was made of itty, bitty particles.

Each wavelength is classified by a different color, and grouped into one of six categories called the electromagnetic spectrum. The categories of the electromagnetic spectrum are:

  • Gamma rays
  • X-rays
  • Ultraviolet (UV) rays
  • Visible light
  • Infrared light
  • Radio waves

No doubt you’ve heard of all of these different types of electromagnetic waves before, but the only one you can see are those of the visible spectrum, i.e. visible light, or simply light. The human eye will respond to a very limited band of wavelengths ranging from about 390 (red) to 700 nm (violet). Included in the visible spectrum are:

  • Red
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Indigo
  • Violet
Light Spectrum
Image courtesy Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. [3]

As you can see from the graphic, blue light is towards the left side of the graph, meaning it has a very short wavelength. As such, blue light produces a very high amount of energy.

Why is this bad?

We get to that next.

Why is Blue Light Bad?

Every person has an internal clock that regulates their sleep-wake cycles. You probably know this as the circadian rhythm. [4] Everyone’s circadian rhythm is a bit different, and is affected by a variety of factors, including light exposure. This is why you may hear many “biohackers” promote the idea of getting sun exposure as soon as you can upon waking, to help “set” your internal clock for the day.

The average length of the circadian rhythm is about 24.25 hours. For a night owl, it lasts a bit longer, and for the early birds, it’s a little bit short of the “standard” 24 hours, hence why you fall asleep and rise earlier.

Researchers have identified a set of Period genes that play a role in the regulation of the circadian rhythm. During the night, two genes - period (PER) and timeless (TIM) -- accumulate in the cytoplasm of cells, and as the day progresses, these proteins degrade, and then rebuild again at night.[5,6] This is why, as the day progresses, and the sun begins to set, your body naturally starts to wind down, setting itself up for a nighttime of peaceful, restorative sleep.

Assuming you haven’t taken any stimulants in the evening, or been under the bright lights, you should dose off once it’s dark outside. However, a number of factors (known as “Zeitgeber signals”) can throw a massive wrench into your internal clock (by messing with gene expression), clogging up the cogs that dictate your sleep patterns and setting you up for a terrible night’s sleep. [7]

Physiological Rhythms
The circadian molecular clockwork. [7]

Light exposure is one of those Zeitgeber signals and one that most people don’t even think about. FYI, other zeitgebers include:

  • External temperature change
  • Locomotor activity
  • The timing of food intake (maybe there is something to nutrient timing after all?)
  • Body temperature
  • Social interaction (this is why you can stay up late when hanging out with friends)

It’s pretty well understood that having a couple of double espresso macchiatos could prevent you from falling asleep (due to the stimulatory effects of caffeine), but does watching a few reruns on Netflix before crashing for the evening really impact your sleep?

You bet it does, and here’s where blue light comes into the equation.

Remember that blue light produces a lot of energy. This is great during the daytime, as it boosts mood, attention, and reaction times. It helps “wake you up” so to speak. But at night, as we just showed, it's seriously screwing with your sleep, and the problem is only getting worse.

Just think about it, you’re bombarded by blue light from an ever-increasing number of sources each day. Televisions, smartphones, tablets, and artificial lighting around the house all emit various amounts of blue light. On top of that, cities are also replacing old, outdated, and more costly, traditional light bulbs with cheaper, more efficient, and more blue-intensive LED lighting.

Wavelength
A comparison of the power spectrum of a standard white-light LED, a tricolor fluorescent lamp, and an incandescent source... [9]

 

Taken together, you have the perfect recipe for a seriously jacked up circadian rhythm, not only from the disruption of gene expression but also due to the fact that light exposure of any kind inhibits the production of melatonin -- the key hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm. [8]

The end result is an all-around terrible night’s sleep Research has shown that exposure to blue light at night (even from an e-book reader) increases alertness in the evening, lengthens the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, and decreases REM sleep. [10]

Frequency
Sleep and sleepiness/alertness measures during and after the print-book and LE-eBook reading conditions.[10]

 

But...

It gets worse…

Blue light isn’t only disrupting your sleep it’s also hazardous to your eyes. [9]

Recent research has shown that exposure to blue light can increase and accelerate age-related macular degeneration. [9] Additionally, blue light also destroys your retina (light-sensitive layer of tissue in the eye) by damaging photoreceptors and by inducing necrosis (death of cells). [11] Essentially, blue light produces reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as superoxide radicals, in retinal cells which can lead to cell death.

On top of that, other recent studies have shown that disruption of the circadian rhythm can come with other devastating health effects as it affects the individual clocks that govern functions in the body’s organs. Various studies have shown that disrupting the natural circadian rhythm promotes the development and progression of metabolic, inflammatory, and alcohol-related diseases. [12][13]

Internal Clocks
Central and peripheral circadian rhythms. (A) Under normal conditions, the central circadian clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus which is entrained by light, then regulates peripheral circadian clocks. [12]

 

Basically, anything that throws off your circadian rhythm, especially blue light exposure, can have much more serious consequences than we originally thought.

So, what can you do to combat blue light, thereby sparing your sleep, eyes, and overall health?

Let’s find out!

How to Combat Blue Light

There’s no shortage of ways to combat blue light, and here are four of the most effective steps you can take to beat back blue light:

  • Avoid bright backlight screens starting roughly 2-3 hours before bed, or if you must work late, use a blue light filter on whatever electronic device you’re using.
  • Use dim, red lights for night lights, or better yet, use a candle.
  • Red light is very “lower power”, meaning it’s less likely to throw off your circadian rhythm and inhibit melatonin secretion.
  • Wear blue light blocking glasses if working around/with a lot of electronic devices at night.
  • Get lights of bright light exposure during the day, which helps set your internal clock, as well as heighten mood and alertness.

Now, you could wear some of the orange-tinted, blue light-blocking glasses, but do you really want to look like Dave Asprey of BulletProof Coffee or any one of the other bozo biohackers walking around that over-optimize things a bit too much?

Probably not, so what else can you do to help combat the deleterious effects of blue light and save your eyes and sleep at the same time?

There sure is, and here are three of the best remedies you can use each day (and night) to protect your eyes, improve your sleep, and combat blue light:

Best Blue Light Supplements

Lutemax 2020

Created by OmniActive Health Technologies, Lutemax 2020 is a naturally-derived marigold extract that provides lutein and zeaxanthin isomers in the exact same ratio as they are found in nature.

Why are lutein and zeaxanthin important?

Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only two of more than 600 carotenoids found in nature, that are only located in the eye, specifically the macula. These two carotenoids are NOT synthesized by the body, which means you must obtain them through the diet or supplementation.

Lutein and zeaxanthin also serve as important antioxidants in the eye, and protect against age-related macular degeneration, which as you may recall can be accelerated by exposure to blue light. [14][15] More specifically, lutein and zeaxanthin neutralize free radicals that contribute to oxidative stress and retinal damage.

Dietary sources of these two vital eye protectors include dark green leafy vegetables, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, as well as fatty fish such as salmon, sardine, and trout. However, the typical American intake of these essential nutrients is pitifully low, meaning that supplementation is a must, especially if you’re bombarded by blue light all day, every day.

Research has shown that supplementation is effective for fulfilling the lutein and zeaxanthin requirements of the body, and combating age-related macular degeneration. [14][15]

Theanine

Stress affects over 60% of adults, with more and more falling under the spell of stress as demands from work, family, and daily life continuously mount. It’s often recommended that having a warm cup of tea can help one to relax, and it turns out those ancient home remedies were onto something.

Tea leaves are especially rich in L-Theanine, a nonessential amino acid found to induce relaxation. [16] Specifically, theanine increases Alpha brain waves, while decreasing Beta brain waves. Alpha waves are those brain waves associated with relaxation, while beta brain waves are linked to being awake and/or excited.

More importantly, theanine promotes calm and relaxation without drowsiness or sedation. This makes it the perfect supplement to use in the evenings when trying to unwind from a long, stressful day at the office, without having to crack open a fifth of Jack Daniels.

It’s also an incredibly effective sleep aid, backed by numerous studies. Research has shown that consuming between 50–200 mg of l-theanine can improve sleep quality, but not by inducing drowsiness (i.e. “knocking you out), but by anxiolysis (relaxation and reducing stress). [15][16][17]

Suntheanine is a patented form of pure form of L-theanine produced via a proprietary fermentation process mimicking the natural process that occurs in green tea leaves. This leaves you with a form of supplemental theanine that is 100% pure L-isomer-theanine.

Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral required by the human body and readily found in a number of foods commonly consumed in the diet. In fact, magnesium is so essential it’s required by every cell and organ in the body, and participates in over 600 cellular reactions throughout your body, affecting everything from brain function to bone health to muscle contraction and relaxation. [18]

Magnesium also plays a role in sleep by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of your nervous system responsible for helping you relax and calm. [19] On top of that, magnesium also regulates melatonin production, which plays a key role in sleep-wake cycles. [20]

Not having sufficient amounts of magnesium in your body can result in disrupted sleep and even insomnia. [21]

Unfortunately, most individuals (especially physically active ones) are chronically deficient in this essential mineral, which means you’re in store for a difficult night’s rest. The answer to this is to eat more magnesium-rich foods or consume a magnesium supplement of some kind.

However, there’s a lot of different magnesium supplements on the market, and choosing an effective one is difficult. Some supplemental forms of magnesium have poor bioavailability (i.e. magnesium oxide), meaning they’re not really all that effective for increasing magnesium levels in the body. [22]

Magnesium L-Threonate, on the other hand, is highly bioavailable and is the only form of magnesium supplement that crosses the blood-brain barrier. [23]

That’s where Magtein comes into play.

Magtein is a trademarked form of magnesium l-threonate that is the only form of magnesium to have clinical research documenting its ability to increase brain levels of magnesium, which has led to improvements in memory, learning, recognition, and cognitive function. [24]

Night Owl
Click here to order Ambrosia Night owl now.

Night Owl -- The Blue Light Killer

Ambrosia Night Owl contains a synergistic mix of ingredients to combat the deleterious effects blue light has on your natural sleep cycle while simultaneously protecting your eyes and improving cognitive function. Each serving of Night Owl includes a full serving of Lutemax 2020 alongside effective doses of Magtein and Suntheanine to create the ultimate all-natural combination supplement that offers blue light defense and improved sleep.

Sleep better, live better, and function better with Ambrosia Night Owl.

References

1) American Psychology Association. Stress in America: Coping with change. Stress Am. 2017:1-10. doi:10.4135/9781446212547.n13.
2) Primack BA, Shensa A, Escobar-Viera CG, et al. Use of multiple social media platforms and symptoms of depression and anxiety: A nationally-representative study among U.S. young adults. Comput Human Behav. 2017;69:1-9. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.11.013.
3) light | Definition, Properties, Physics, & Quantum Theory. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/science/light.
4) National Institutes of Health. Circadian Rhythms. 2017;(September):1-2.
5) Andreani TS, Itoh TQ, Yildirim E, Hwangbo D-S, Allada R. Genetics of Circadian Rhythms. Sleep medicine clinics. 2015;10(4):413-421. doi:10.1016/j.jsmc.2015.08.007.
6) PER1 period circadian regulator 1 [Homo sapiens (human)] - Gene - NCBI. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gene/5187.
7) Husse J, Eichele G, Oster H. Synchronization of the mammalian circadian timing system: Light can control peripheral clocks independently of the SCN clock: Alternate routes of entrainment optimize the alignment of the body’s circadian clock network with external time. Bioessays. 2015;37(10):1119-1128. doi:10.1002/bies.201500026.
8) Mishima K. [Melatonin as a regulator of human sleep and circadian systems]. Nihon Rinsho. 2012;70(7):1139-1144.
9) Tosini G, Ferguson I, Tsubota K. Effects of blue light on the circadian system and eye physiology. Molecular Vision. 2016;22:61-72.
10) Chang A-M, Aeschbach D, Duffy JF, Czeisler CA. Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2015;112(4):1232 LP-1237. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/4/1232.abstract.
11) Jaadane I, Boulenguez P, Chahory S, et al. Retinal damage induced by commercial light emitting diodes (LEDs). Free Radic Biol Med. 2015;84:373-384. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2015.03.034.
12) Voigt RM, Forsyth CB, Keshavarzian A. Circadian Disruption: Potential Implications in Inflammatory and Metabolic Diseases Associated With Alcohol. Alcohol Research?: Current Reviews. 2013;35(1):87-96.
13) Arble DM, Ramsey KM, Bass J, Turek FW. Circadian Disruption and Metabolic Disease: Findings from Animal Models. Best practice & research Clinical endocrinology & metabolism. 2010;24(5):785-800. doi:10.1016/j.beem.2010.08.003.
14) Eisenhauer B, Natoli S, Liew G, Flood VM. Lutein and Zeaxanthin—Food Sources, Bioavailability and Dietary Variety in Age-Related Macular Degeneration Protection. Nutrients. 2017;9(2):120. doi:10.3390/nu9020120.
15) Scripsema NK, Hu D-N, Rosen RB. Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and meso-Zeaxanthin in the Clinical Management of Eye Disease. Journal of Ophthalmology. 2015;2015:865179. doi:10.1155/2015/865179.
16) Shirakawa, S. Theanine supplementation and sleep quality. 17th European Sleep Research Society. 2004.
17) Lyon MR, Kapoor MP, Juneja LR. The effects of L-theanine (Suntheanine(R)) on objective sleep quality in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Altern Med Rev. 2011;16(4):348-354.
18) Rao TP, Ozeki M, Juneja LR. In Search of a Safe Natural Sleep Aid. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(5):436-447. doi:10.1080/07315724.2014.926153.
19) de Baaij JHF, Hoenderop JGJ, Bindels RJM. Magnesium in man: implications for health and disease. Physiol Rev. 2015;95(1):1-46. doi:10.1152/physrev.00012.2014.
20) Wienecke E, Nolden C. [Long-term HRV analysis shows stress reduction by magnesium intake]. MMW Fortschr Med. 2016;158(Suppl 6):12-16. doi:10.1007/s15006-016-9054-7.
21) Durlach J, Pages N, Bac P, Bara M, Guiet-Bara A. Biorhythms and possible central regulation of magnesium status, phototherapy, darkness therapy and chronopathological forms of magnesium depletion. Magnes Res. 2002;15(1-2):49-66.
22) Boomsma D. The magic of magnesium. Int J Pharm Compd. 2008;12(4):306-309.
23) Firoz M, Graber M; Bioavailability of US commercial magnesium preparations . Magnes Res. (2001)
24) Slutsky I, Abumaria N, Wu L-J, et al. Enhancement of Learning and Memory by Elevating Brain Magnesium. Neuron. 2010;65(2):165-177. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2009.12.026.
Previous article Childhood Obesity Causes and How We Can End It