Optimizing sleep: Blue blockers
When looking at optimizing sleep quality one of the easiest things you can do is purchase a pair of blue blocking glasses. A few years ago I purchased the first pair I saw come up on an Amazon search for blue blocking glasses. Since then there has been an influx of health companies looking to make the glasses more stylish and in some cases less obtrusive in the viewing experience with them on. I’ve looked at trying a new pair, but ultimately the one’s I have are
doing their job and seem to work just fine so I’ll ke
ep at them until something better seemingly comes along.
So why would someone want to wear a pair of these glasses indoors in the evening hours before bed? Simply put, they block light that mimics the sun. This is important because the light from the sun is a powerful signal to tell your body it’s time to rev things up and be ready for the day ahead. This signal helps establish what is known as your circadian rhythm, the internal clock in your body that lets you know when you should be awake and when you should be sleeping. Unfortunately modern life and it’s frequent usage of screens can wreck havoc on your own internal clock. These devices emit similar light that the sun does and make it very difficult for your body to wind down properly in the evening.
The winding down process involves the release of melatonin which acts to tell your body it’s time to start going to sleep (you may have even tried supplementing with this). When the eyes are staring at a screen late in the evening the light travels through the eye and basically tells the brain it doesn’t need to release melatonin. You may know that you want to go to bed in an hour but your brain has no idea it should be releasing melatonin because for all it knows the sun could be up.
Now, the easiest fix to this would be to avoid all screens for an hour or more before bed and find new methods to wind down in the evening. However, I realize the magnitude of a change like that and utilizing blue blocking glasses is a suitable solution for this. There are plenty of evenings I want to catch up on a favorite show or play video games so putting the glasses on help me honor my circadian rhtyhmn and still get decent sleep.
Generally I try to place them on about an hour and half before going to bed and be as consistent as possible with when I put them on. On the weekends I do slip up some and may not even use them, to which my sleep is directly affected. Usually that means a little less deep sleep on my tracking devices, feeling a little sluggish in the morning, and even feeling more blood sugar swings (bad sleep can temporarily make your body similar to a Type 2 diabetic the next day! Something to discuss for another post perhaps).
Below is a small sample showing just how much of an effect these glasses actually have on my sleep.
The picture here is my sleep data from Sunday evening where I decided to spend the last 2 hours before bed staring at a tv screen playing Fortnite without wearing them. For the most part I have no problem wearing them for casual gaming or tv watching, but if it’s something competitive I don’t want to be losing my edge (to which I’m learning I pay for by ignoring something I know will negatively impact my sleep).
As you can see, I didn't get much deep sleep that night and I felt it the next day. I was groggier than normal the next morning, had stronger hunger and craving cues, and battled some energy crashes after meals (to which I attributed to some temporary insulin sensitivity via poor sleep quality). Interestingly enough, when I hit the pillow I stayed asleep until my alarm (sometimes these trackers pick up movement so you can see that as the white blips). That is somewhat atypical for me as I usually wake up once a night and run to the restroom before falling back asleep.
Next is from a work day where I put the glasses on 2 hours before bed (while also winding down properly via listening to audiobooks and foam rolling - sure that helped a bit too as opposed to play a stressful video game!).
Right away what stands out is the amount of deep sleep and even increase in REM sleep I had from the night before. I did also wake up once in the middle of the night (large white blip) and a bit before my alarm at 5:30. The biggest difference though was that when I woke at 5:30 I was wide awake and had no sense of grogginess or desire to go back asleep (probably should have gotten out of bed then honestly, but snoozing a little longer didn't enter me into a deep cycle so I was still fine at 6:00am). As for the rest of my day, my mind and vision were sharp and I performed well with my workouts. I also noticed less intense hunger and craving signals so that's always a plus for maintaining consistency in my nutrition.
Anywho, that's all for now. Don't forget to block that blue light at night!