Circadian Rhythm – Warning, this is Not a Dance Move

As I wear my nerd goggles (blue-light blocking glasses), I figured it was better to bust out the keyboard and type down some thoughts on the circadian rhythm and the blue light effect on life.

What is a Circadian Rhythm

The circadian rhythm is known as the body’s natural clock. Important processes take place during scheduled phases of this 24 hour cycle (on average).  Circadian rhythms are important in determining the sleeping and feeding patterns of all animals, plants, fungi and cyanobacteria (photosynthetic bacteria).  What is especially important is the brain wave activity, hormone production and cell regeneration that is linked to this daily cycle.

Concerns about “blue light”

Blue light is the light emitted off of our laptops, tablets, cellphones and some  LED lights. Many studies have linked this exposure to increased risk for cancer (breast, prostate), diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Blue light also suppresses the secretion of melatonin, which is a hormone that rises at night when you are falling asleep and decreases as you wake up in the morning. Melatonin is important due to working inversely with cortisol (the energy hormone). Cortisol is highest in the morning to give us energy throughout the day, and generally depletes until bedtime where it is restored via sleep. Blue light can alter both of these important hormones, making you feel more fatigued during the day with insomnia or poor sleep at night.

Help your body naturally get into a routine

1. Sticking to a Consistent Sleep Schedule.

  • Sticking to the same sleep schedule on weekdays and weekends will help your circadian stay in a more consistent state. If you don’t know what to do with yourself when you wake up early on the weekends, go for a walk, journal, or do some other self-care practices to help wake you up!

2. Get some fresh air in the morning. 

  • Exposure to light (preferably the sun), helps to give your body a burst of cortisol needed for energy.
  • Bright light in the morning and throughout the day can help reset your circadian rhythm. Just a short time in the morning will give you enough sun/light exposure to signal to your brain that it’s time to start the day.

3. Limit light at night.

  • Use dim red lights for night lights. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin.
  • Avoid looking at bright screens two to three hours before bed.
  • If you work at night or cannot avoid electronics, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses or installing an app (such as that filters the blue/green wavelength at night.
  • Expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day, which will boost your ability to sleep at night, as well as your mood and alertness during daylight.

Time to step away from this computer and go enjoy the sun!