Hands up who uses their smartphone in the hours before bed? Us too - and it might just be the reason that we’re a nation of such bad sleepers. We know that the blue light emitted from our many tech devices is silently ageing us faster , but as well as its ability to affect our delicate skin barrier and cause fine lines, it’s also working at a deeper level to stop us from sleeping well - by preventing the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
The sleep experts at Simba - creators of the world’s most advanced mattress - recently teamed up with Nina Ryner, founder of Chroma Yoga , a unique London studio combining colour therapy with yoga, to tell us more about the connection between light and sleep.
"You have a scale of visual colour; on one hand there’s blue, and that’s a short wavelength of light, and on the other hand you’ve got red, orange and yellow - the warmer tones," explains Nina. "Blue suppresses melatonin in the brain, which is the sleep hormone; it sends a signal to make us think it’s daylight, that we are supposed to be awake and energetic.”
Of course, nature does this for us - Nina points out the sky is blue and daylight is what keeps us energised - but the problem is, we’re now artificially suppressing our sleep hormone thanks to the light emitted from our iPhones, TVs and tablets.
“We are now constantly on a laptop or smartphone, or exposed to cold light in our offices or at home into the evening due to working late,” continues Nina. As a result, she explains, more of us are suffering from sleep disorders and more serious health problems, with the consequences of this digital disruption being linked to increases in depression, obesity and even some cancers.
While it's unlikely we'll all be taking a digital detox anytime soon, there are plenty of ways to bring our hormones back into their normal rhythm.
Under warmer light you can continue to function as normal, only you won’t be suppressing the production of melatonin
Inspired by light installations at exhibitions where she noted how the colour of a room would affect her and others, Nina studied colour therapy and thought it was a natural pairing with yoga, going on to create the studio where classes are colour-coded depending on the mood or energy you want. The amber class at the Shoreditch studio is particularly calming, and is a great precursor to a better night’s sleep, as it’s these warmer tones that don’t disrupt your natural sleep cycle. But aside from attending a class, what can we do to ensure our hormones are working as they should be?
Nina, Founder of Chroma Yoga
Nina advises trying to expose yourself to warmer tones of light where possible - but don’t worry, you won’t find yourself dropping off at your desk. Under warmer light you can continue to function as normal, get your work finished and do whatever you need to do, Nina says, only you won’t be suppressing the production of that all-important sleep hormone, melatonin.
Still attached to your phone come bedtime? You can still avoid a sleepless night - most smartphones now have a Night Shift mode (Apple introduced this to their iPhones with iOS 9.3 whereby you can even set it to come on at a regular time. Find it in Settings under Display or toggle it on by simply swiping up) which adapts your screen’s light to be a warmer, more orange hue.
Tech not quite up to date? Nina recommends trying the free f.lux software , which works on both Windows and Mac, to do the same thing for your laptop or computer as you work.
A little home lighting project could help, too. “Lots of people have cold blue bulbs, so change them to a warmer frequency of light,” agrees Nina. “But also decrease the brightness on everything - try to incorporate these ideas into your lifestyle in general. If you are the sort of person who works late on a laptop every day, these things will really make a difference if you do them regularly.”
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