Does Blue Light Impact Fertility?
One buzz-word that’s being tossed around quite a bit is blue light. Blue light is the portion of the visible light spectrum with the shortest wavelength and the highest energy. It is found in sunlight, LED and fluorescent lighting, and screens (such as phones, computers, tablets, tvs, etc.). Does exposure to blue light directly cause infertility? Obviously, if the sun naturally contains blue light, this can’t be the case. However, blue light exposure outside of daylight hours can invariably cause a cascade of events that can be detrimental to health and ultimately fertility.
With today’s hustle and bustle we tend to wake up before the sun is out and we go to sleep way beyond the point of sun-down. How else can you do it all? There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Light exposure is what signals your body to adapt to the 24 hour day. This is commonly referred to as the circadian rhythm. In the modern lifestyle we are indoors during much of the day and by the time we settle down into the evening, eat dinner, and maybe tuck our little ones into bed, what’s next? We are reaching for our laptops to get some work done, reaching for our phones to catch up on all of our notifications, or headed for the tv to simply wind down. This is where it all starts. This over-exposure to artificial blue lighting leads to a reduction in endogenous melatonin production.
Melatonin is a pineal hormone that has been identified as a key factor in the regulation of circadian rhythms and the sleep-wake cycle (1). Its production is dependent on ambient illumination, with release being suppressed by light (2). So far, we know that poor sleeping habits combined with untimely artificial light exposure leads to a reduction in melatonin. How does this relate to fertility? Let’s dig a little deeper.
How Melatonin Impacts Fertility
Although melatonin is mainly synthesized and secreted from the pineal gland, studies have found that it is also produced and present in several other organs, including the reproductive system! Even more, melatonin is known for its oxygen scavenging properties (as a natural antioxidant). In a nice, healthy body there should be a balance between prooxidants (free radical species) and antioxidants (2). Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance. Oxidative stress is linked to the development of pathological processes affecting reproduction, including embryonic resorption, recurrent pregnancy loss, preeclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, and fetal death (3). Melatonin is a powerful free radical scavenger and protects the oocyte from oxidative stress, especially at the time of ovulation (4).
We now know that oxidative stress can affect reproduction, that melatonin hangs out within the reproductive system, and is an antioxidant that can help battle oxidative stress. This is pretty powerful. Nature truly knows what it’s doing.
In addition to its oxygen scavenging properties, it has been concluded that melatonin has a role in the regulation of the menstrual cycle (5). One study indicated that women working the night shift affects the circadian rhythm of melatonin and prolactin causing suppressed ovarian function (6). What’s interesting is that melatonin levels are at the lowest in the preovulatory phase and reach their peak during the luteal phase, suggesting that melatonin has variable effects dependent on the menstrual phase (2). Melatonin, furthermore, has effects on both oocyte and sperm quality (2). This extends the importance of this topic to your partner’s lifestyle, too.
Tying it all together, melatonin is a profoundly important hormone for so many reasons, even beyond fertility. Our habits or lack of habits in some cases directly affect the regulation of this hormone. I’ve heard all my life that sleep is so important. When we as BIRTHFIT offer nutrition as a foundational pillar, sleep hygiene branches out from this pillar and needs to be recognized as a nourishing quality (for mind, body and soul), and extremely necessary.
Tips for Avoiding Blue Light
When you consider what you know about blue light exposure and its effect on melatonin, you can probably think of a few habits that you easily can get rid of or even modify. Here are a few suggestions that can help optimize appropriate melatonin regulation and limit the disruption of your natural circadian rhythm:
- When you wake up in the morning, as soon as there’s an opportunity to get some sunlight, get outside for at least 10 minutes. This will help suppress melatonin stimulus, reminding your body it’s time to start the day. Get out there with your morning beverage, or take a piece of your morning routine outdoors-meditate, pray, check your emails.
- Avoid devices for a few hours before going to bed. If this is impossible for your lifestyle, try setting your device to filter out blue light. If this is not possible, there are apps that do. There are also eyeglasses you can buy that can help filter out blue light exposure.
- Get the televisions and computers out of the bedrooms (which can also impede conception for other reasons).
- Depending on where you live, there are varied amounts of street lighting that seep into your bedroom window at night. Get yourself some black-out curtains to help make your room nice and dark.
- If your child (or you) absolutely must have a night light, consider a pink Himalayan sea salt lamp.
- Try your best to maintain a consistent daily routine.
I hope we can all agree that we are worth the extra investments it may take to improve the quality of our relationship with sleep. If you have questions about sleep or any of the four BIRTHFIT pillars please reach out to your local BIRTHFIT Regional Director or Professionals. And check out this blog if you’d like more information on reducing blue light during pregnancy.
Until next time, sleep tight!
Brooke Tompkins@birthfit_southtampa www.southtampa.birthfit.com