Help Baby Sleep: How Blue Light Might Be Keeping You and Baby Awake

Perhaps you have heard that late night TV and web-browsing are bad for sleep, but when you’re already up feeding baby, what’s the harm in catching up on Instagram or watching the last episode of your favorite show?  

 

Becoming a parent means, among so many other things, developing a new relationship with the night hours.  Postpartum sleep is a big deal for you and baby: sleep routines, establishing bedtime, night feedings… lots to learn and consider.  Sleep can be complicated, and the last thing you want to do is compromise it. Unfortunately, browsing your phone during that 2AM feeding might be keeping you and baby awake.

 

DAYLIGHT VS. ARTIFICIAL LIGHT

All humans have internal clocks.  These clocks are programmed to respond to light and guide your body in knowing when to sleep.  However, when you expose yourself and your baby to artificial light during dark hours with room lighting, light from electronic devices, or even light from night lights, this process is disrupted.  Exposure to artificial light before bedtime suppresses the secretion of up to 50% of Melatonin in 99% of people (1, 5).  And since melatonin is responsible for helping you and your baby fall asleep and stay asleep (not to mention contribute to other health and immune functions), this means one more game of candy crush can create a domino effect of sleep problems.  

 

BLUE LIGHT AND SLEEP

Not all colors of light are equal. Shorter wavelength light (blue and white light) are interpreted by the body as daylight as compared to longer wavelengths (red and amber)(3).  Even as little as 5 minutes exposure to blue light can throw off your system by up to 90 minutes (2, 4).  This is especially problematic because your electronic devices and environmentally friendly LED lighting (LED) both utilize blue light.  

 

PROTECTING YOUR SLEEP

So how do you avoid adverse effects without forgoing a 21st century lifestyle?  Keep your electronic devices out of your bedroom, use a red or amber light nightlight and avoid bright overhead lighting by installing a dimmer in your bedroom and nursery.  When purchasing LED lights, try to find bulbs that have been coated to produce a warmer light. And If you do need to use your devices at night, try wearing blue light blocking glasses (3).  Some devices now have a “night shift” mode in which the device’s display switches automatically to give off a warmer, less blue light.

 

If you’re currently pregnant, read more about blue light exposure and pregnancy here.

 

Jenny Werba

BIRTHFIT SF @birthfit_sf

 

Sources:

  1. Gooley, J. J., Chamberlain, K., Smith, K. A., Khalsa, S. B. S., Rajaratnam, S. M. W., Van Reen, E., … Lockley, S. W. (2011). Exposure to Room Light before Bedtime Suppresses Melatonin Onset and Shortens Melatonin Duration in Humans. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 96(3), E463–E472. doi:10.1210/jc.2010-2098
  2. Rimmer DW, Boivin DB, Shanahan TL, Kronauer RE, Duffy JF, Czeisler CA. Dynamic resetting of the human circadian pacemaker by intermittent bright light. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2000 Nov;279(5):R1574-9. PMID: 11049838
  3. Burkhard, K. & Phelps, J.R. (2009). Amber lenses to block blue light and improve sleep: A randomized trial. Chronobiology International, 26 (8), 1602-1612.
  4. Jamie M Zeitzer, Derk-Jan Dijk, Richard E Kronauer, Emery N Brown, Charles A Czeisler. J Physiol. Sensitivity of the human circadian pacemaker to nocturnal light: melatonin phase resetting and suppression. 2000 August 1; 526(Pt 3): 695–702. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7793.2000.00695.x PMCID:  PMC2270041.
  5. Kayumov L, Casper RF, Hawa RJ, Perelman B, Chung SA, Sokalsky S, Shapiro CM (May 2005). “Blocking low-wavelength light prevents nocturnal melatonin suppression with no adverse effect on performance during simulated shift work“. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 90 (5): 2755–61.

 

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