Blinded by the light!
I never realized just how blinding my
“LED lighting” is a word tossed around like “gluten” and “inflammation.”
We hear it. We know it’s not good for us.
But…what is it exactly?
LED Light, also known as “Light Emitting Diode” lighting, is artificial (manmade) light—the type of light that has really only been around since the 1960s (not even Edison’s day).
These lights illuminate our world via:
- Computer screens
- TV screems
- Phone screens
- Home lighting and bulbs in lamps
LEDs are currently our society’s primary choice of lightbulb due to their electrical efficiency (last longer) and cheap cost.
LED lighting is one of the three main sources of artificial light we use today, along with:
- Incandescent lighting (Edison’s invention)
- CFL lighting (compact fluorescent lighting; also known as fluorescent light and Ultra-Violent light, like in tanning beds)
In fact, prior to the invention of LED lighting (which is cheaper), the world only knew the “incandescent” lightbulb (Edison’s invention) AND good ol’ candle and gas lamp lighting.
These former versions of lighting were much more natural and akin to the sun (our body and creation’s primary choice of lighting).
Both LED and CFL lighting are not as natural as incandescent lighting…and definitely not as natural as candle, gas and sun light…
Hence the “big deal” with these two types of light (artificial).
So what’s the big deal?
The MAIN claim against LED lights is their powerful effects to disrupt our own body’s biological clocks (i.e. circadian rhythms).
LED lighting (a.k.a. short-wavelength or “blue” light) is the most melatonin-suppressive. LEDs emit short wave-lengths light which tricks your body into being overstimulated.
[Note: Melatonin is the chemical in your body that makes your feel sleepy and enhances restful sleep patterns].
When our eyes and brains see LED lighting, our bodies are on the ALERT.
They get confused—really confused—as to what time of day it is.
- It can be 8 p.m. at night, and we are staring at our computer screen, and our body thinks it’s 12 p.m.-high noon!
- Or it can be 6 a.m….and our body thinks the same thing.
And when our biological clocks get confused…so does the rest of our body’s processes (especially our sleep-wake cycles, and even other metabolic functions, like our hunger-fullness cues, digestion, hormonal balance, and energy levels.).
When LED light exposure is a regular part of our routines, our body goes into “I’m awake mode” (like all the time), and hence all these other things don’t really know WHAT to do.
No wonder at least 1/3 of us do NOT get enough sleep (less than 7 hours). And even amongst those who do get 7-9 hours per sleep, about 1/3 of adults report sleep difficulties.
So what should I do?
Blue lights are everywhere. But there is no need to hide under a rock or give up your phone or computer FOREVER to avoid the harmful effects of LED lights.
A few simple shifts can do wonders for allowing your body to ‘rest’ and realign your biological clock with how nature intended. Try these.:
- Black out your room. No phone lights, red clock lights, street lights. When it’s time to sleep, go for as completely dark as possible (Unless you happen to be under the stars)
- F.Lux. If you have NOT downloaded this app to your computer…do it. It changes the lighting on your screen throughout the day, according to the type of light your body (and biological clock) naturally prefers. When I first started using this, about 2 weeks into my shift, I attempted turning off the app to compare the LED screen light at 9 or 10 p.m. at night to the F.Lux app…I was blinded! I never realized HOW powerful, strong and BRIGHT LED light is…try it for yourself (you may find you will sleep better if you tend to be on your screens later into the evening).
- Hollywood. A recent trend for those who really want to get reconnected to their body’s natural circadian rhythms is the use of BLUE-BLOCKING glasses (Amber-colored glasses). You can buy them for cheap on Amazon. Wear them at night if you are going to be looking at screens, and preserve your quality sleep (and health)—without having to “go off the grid” completely.
- Candle down. At night time, make a concerted effort to dim the lights in your space. Maybe just a lamp or two. Turn off the overheads. Even light a candle. At the turn of sundown, also begin “sun down” for yourself. Bonus points: Use night time for more ‘down time’ activities, like reading, catching up with loved ones or friends, writing (on paper), meditating, journaling, yoga-ing. Turn off the higher-stress and bright-light activities.
- Warm Up. If you are going lightbulb shopping for LED lighting (lamps, kitchen lighting, etc.), opt for warmer, softer-tone lighting. Warm white and soft white will produce a yellow hue, close to incandescents, while bulbs labeled as bright white will produce a whiter light, closer to daylight and similar to what you see in retail stores.
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