3 Ways to Reduce Blue Light Exposure During Pregnancy

Before we dig into the ways to reduce blue light exposure, let’s back up a bit and get clear on why we want to reduce it in the first place.

Image from https://www.allaboutvision.com/cvs/blue-light.htm

Blue light is actually everywhere, as the sun is one source of (natural) blue light. In nature, we get exposed to varying degrees of blue light throughout the day – more when the sun is high around noon, but then more reds and oranges in the morning and evening – balancing all of this out and dictating our circadian rhythm. Today, however, we are exposed to all sorts of artificial or unnatural light from various sources, such as phones, tablets, televisions, computer screens, fluorescent lights and LED lights, that give off light that is predominantly blue light. Because many of us spend lots of time exposed to these for large portions of the day, this is more and more problematic for our health.

In addition to issues such as macular degeneration, cell dysfunction, and cellular aging, an abundance of blue-spectrum light can be especially problematic for women (1). Studies have shown direct links between blue light exposure and women’s reproductive hormones, even having the ability to alter menstrual cycles and possibly fertility (2,3). In addition, blue light has a significant impact on our hormones and sleep, since the exposure to blue light after dark suppresses your body’s secretion of melatonin, throwing your circadian rhythm off (4). Particularly when pregnant, hormonal health and proper sleep are of utmost importance, so let’s explore the top three ways that you can reduce blue light exposure and prevent it from negatively affecting you!

Reducing Screen Time

If you think about it, most of us likely are in front of a screen of some sort for a good chunk of the day. Phones, computers, tablets, and TVs all emit blue light at elevated levels. What’s more, many of these devices are held close to our eyes, exacerbating the problem. In addition, fluorescent lights (including CFLs) and LED light are also a big source of blue light exposure, and are now predominantly used in our homes and workplaces due to their energy efficiency. While they’re great for the environment, they’re not so great for you.

Action: First of all, start to become aware of the time spent in front of screens or under LED lights and note your current energy levels and sleep quantity and quality. Next, especially after sundown, try to reduce your exposure to screens and LED lights–especially ones super close to your face like tablets and phones. If this seems daunting at first, try at least avoiding screens in the bedroom (and don’t even charge your phone next to your bed). As you get more and more used to this, try to eliminate screens from your routine earlier and earlier in the evening, and slowly eliminate all electronics from the bedroom. Finally, look around your house at the lights you turn on and use most often at night, especially right before bed or in the bedroom. Can you switch out the bulbs to incandescent or red/amber bulbs, or even use candlelight?

Reducing Blue Light in the Bedroom

During pregnancy, it’s likely you’ll wake up frequently to go to the bathroom. It’s crucial that during these short periods of wakefulness, you aren’t exposed to blue light, which will make it difficult to go back to sleep (remember this during night nursing postpartum!) and achieve optimal sleep quality (5). Even the smallest sources of light (think night lights, the small light on a TV, your digital clock) is able to pass through our eyelids when we sleep and sensed by our pineal gland – the gland that produces melatonin (6).

Action: Take inventory of the possible sources of light that you are exposed to in the middle of the night. If you have nightlights, can you get rid of them? If you can’t, try switching them out to a red-light nightlight and away from direct exposure while you sleep (e.g., in the hallway or bathroom versus in your bedroom). Look around your bedroom for possible lights from other electronics, even extremely small ones. The more you can get out of the bedroom, the better. If they can’t be removed, try to cover them. Finally, look into blackout curtains to prevent lights from outside, such as street lights or neighbor’s porch lights (which are increasingly LEDs), from infiltrating your room. In our room, my test is that if I can see my hand in front of my face, it’s too bright!

Protect Yourself from Blue Light

If you are unable to switch out bulbs or avoid screens, there are several good options to reduce the amount of blue light reaching your eyes. There are many options for blue light filtering screen covers, such as this, this or this. Many devices also have the option to switch to a night feature or up the level of red light, such as Apple’s Night Shift mode, and there’s a software called f.lux that changes the color of your computer screen.

Personally, I have found that blue light blocking glasses have made the biggest difference in eye fatigue and sleep quality, especially on days when I have long stretches of time in front of a computer. My husband and I have several of these cheap blue light blocking glasses around the house, and use them when we choose to watch TV or do a little surfing on the interwebs at night. My husband has True Dark glasses which work extremely well (see photo). I also have Felix Gray glasses that are a bit more, well, good looking, and still do the trick. There are now many other brands of good looking “computer glasses” such as Pixel, Swanwick, Ladyboss, and Zenni’s Blokz

And one final word: it’s important to try to get light in from natural sources during the day, especially if you work indoors most of the day. Going outside and getting your eyes and skin exposed to sun during the day can be very beneficial for regulating your circadian rhythms.

After implementing some of these changes, note your energy levels, sleep quality and quantity, and any other notable improvements, and comment below to let us know how it went!

 

Molly Powell

BIRTHFIT Milwaukee @birthfitmke

 

References

1 Asprey, Dave. Head Strong. p 160.

2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25789589

3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2243890

4 https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

5 https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

6 Weschler, Toni. Taking Charge of Your Fertility. p148

 

Image credit: https://www.allaboutvision.com/cvs/blue-light.htm

 

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