How artificial light is wrecking your sleep, and what to do about it

insomnia“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” – Irish Proverb

The evidence for the health benefits of adequate, restful sleep is overwhelming. Decades of research has shown that sleeping between 7 and 9 hours per night can relieve stress, reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, improve memory and cognitive function, and may even help with weight loss. (1) As many of us know by now, getting adequate, high-quality sleep is one of the most important, yet under-appreciated steps you can take to improve your overall health and wellbeing.

Yet for all we know about the benefits of sleep, there are millions of Americans who are still suffering from disordered sleep and insomnia. 35% of Americans report getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night, and 63% of Americans say their sleep needs are not being met during the week. (2, 3) The negative effects of sleep deprivation are serious: sleep durations that are consistently shorter than 7 hours in a 24-hour period are associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk factors, depression, automobile and workplace accidents, learning and memory problems, and an overall increase in mortality. (4) Some may argue that poor sleep can even undo the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise routine. (5, 6)

Could using electronics at night ruin your sleep and increase your risk of death and disease?Tweet This

So what’s causing this epidemic of sleep disruption in our country? Many experts feel that our excessive use of communications technology (e.g. cell phones, laptops, television, etc.) is driving this significant level of sleep deprivation. If this is the case, it’s no wonder so many Americans struggle with poor sleep, since 95% have reported using some type of electronics at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed. (7) Checking email, watching your favorite late-night comedian, or responding to a text message in bed seems harmless enough, but the sleep disruption caused by these light emitting devices is significant and potentially harmful to your health.

Research has demonstrated that nighttime light exposure suppresses the production of melatonin, the major hormone secreted by the pineal gland that controls sleep and wake cycles. (8) Therefore, a reduction in melatonin at night is associated with subjective levels of sleeplessness. (9, 10) But melatonin suppression has far worse consequences than simply poor sleep outcomes: it has also been shown to increase the risk of cancer, impair immune system function, and possibly lead to cardiometabolic consequences such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and heart disease. (11, 12, 13) With serious consequences like these, preventing melatonin suppression should be a top priority in anyone’s healthy lifestyle.

Blue light and melatonin suppression

It is well established that short-wavelength or “blue” light is the most melatonin-suppressive; this is the type of light typically emitted by devices such as televisions, computer screens, and cellphones. (14, 15) To produce white light, these electronic devices must emit light at short wavelengths, close to the peak sensitivity of melatonin suppression. (16) This means that products such as tablets, smartphones, and other devices with self-luminous electronic displays are major sources for suppressing melatonin at night, thereby reducing sleep duration and disrupting sleep. (Figure credit: Wood et al, 2013)

Melatonin graph

Along with blue light emitted from electronic devices, research has shown that being exposed to normal levels of room lighting can have similar negative effects on melatonin. One study showed that one hour of moderately bright light exposure (1000 lux) was sufficient to suppress nocturnal melatonin to daytime levels. (17) Since melatonin suppression is intensity dependent, researchers suggest that lower intensities can have similar suppression effects at longer durations; for example, two hours at 500 lux would have a similar effect as one hour at 1000 lux. (For examples of lux values, check out this helpful chart.) This means that typical room light alone can have a similar suppressing effect on melatonin secretion as the light from backlit screens. (18)

How to prevent melatonin disruption (without tossing your iPhone)

Since it is predominantly the blue wavelength that is most affective in melatonin suppression, it stands to reason that blocking this wavelength of light should be enough to significantly reduce, or even eliminate the melatonin-suppressing effects of nighttime light exposure. (19) In fact, blocking blue light has been shown in several studies to be extremely effective in reducing the melatonin-suppressing effects of intense and/or blue light. (20, 21)

There are a few possible solutions for reducing your exposure to blue light at night. One that is commonly used in the ancestral health community is a program called f.lux, a program that makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. This program can be installed on computers, iPads, and iPhones, and may have a significant effect on your melatonin secretion when using these devices at night. The best part about this program is that it turns on automatically in response to the daylight in your particular time zone, so there’s no need to remember any adjustments to the screen.

A better option, in my opinion, is to use amber-lensed goggles once the sun has gone down. These blue-blocking lenses are highly effective in reducing the effects of blue light exposure, and in most cases completely eliminate the short-wavelength radiation necessary for nocturnal melatonin suppression. (22, 23, 24) These goggles have been shown to improve sleep quality as well as mood, simply by blocking blue light and simulating physiologic darkness.

The main reason I recommend using these goggles is because normal room light alone is enough to suppress melatonin at night, and unless you’re shutting off all the lights in your house when the sun sets, you’re still at risk for disrupting your melatonin-driven circadian rhythms. (25) While f.lux is a useful tool for your backlit devices, it’s nearly impossible to address all sources of melatonin-suppressing light in today’s world of modern technology and late-night work and entertainment habits. Amber-colored goggles are one of the only tools available to completely eliminate all blue light exposure at night, without ‘going off the grid’ and powering down your entire house after 7 PM.

There are two excellent (and cheap!) options for amber-lensed goggles on Amazon.com. The cheapest and most popular option is the Uvex brand, but if you wear eyeglasses you’ll need to get a wraparound pair like the Solar Shield brand. I’ve had many patients swear by these goggles, and if you can get over the dorkiness factor, you may find they make a big difference in your sleep quality, and perhaps even your general health and wellbeing as well!

Have you ever used amber-lensed goggles, or f.lux, to improve your sleep quality? Share your experience in the comments below.

Note: I may earn a small commission if you use the links in this article to purchase any products or programs I mentioned. I only recommend products I would use myself or that I use with patients in my practice. Your purchase helps support this site and my ongoing research.

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  1. says

    Great article–it should be noted that in order to install f.lux on your iPhone or iPad, you will need to jailbreak the device.

    I’ve had a good experience with the Uvex googles — they’re comfortable enough and you get used to the whole world being orange while you’re wearing them. In fact it gets to be kind of soothing.

    • says

      1. It is counterproductive if you use f.lux on your phone or computer when there are other lights on – (exception: dim amber or dim red light).
      2. f.lux helps, but does not eliminate the high blue spectrum emitted from computers, phones, or ipads.
      3. solution: use the blue-blocker glasses. I bought a pair for myself & my hubby from lowbluelights.com. I also like their amber night lights.
      4. another solution: avoid the computers at night. go to sleep earlier, and wake up earlier. Use a sleeping mask.
      5. Contact your mayor, alderman and lighting officials. Demand them to STOP the light trespass into your bedroom windows. Speak up at every opportunity. Streetlights that stay on target — the street&sidewalks–(and stay out of your bedroom windows and the night sky) save 1/3 the cost and energy… and are healthier for people and the environment.

    • McPeak says

      I have always enjoyed Amber sunglasses and now reading I understand. My son was a baby in the hospital for 9 days and he was exposed to incubator lights and now he has trouble sleeping. So, I am glad that I came across this article!

    • J. Williams says

      Um sorry guys but sometimes I can’t fall asleep unless I have the TV on… serious! Am I just lucky? Also I was thinking about every child in the world who can’t get to sleep right now unless you leave the light on… Lol what does this mean? xx

  2. says

    The three things that I’ve found have worked best for my sleep are wearing amber-colored glasses as soon as the sun sets, a hot Epsom salt bath followed by an ice cold shower rinse and then I top it all off by eating a combo of high fat raw cheese and dates one hour before bedtime.

    Rip Van Winkle in da house!

    • Renni says

      I referenced your name in my post below. Looking up the catsuit gave me quite the belly as The Big Bang Theory is one of my favorite shows and I like the Norman Cousins theory of laughter and illness.

  3. Kaitlyn says

    Maybe this is a silly question but does light exposure to our skin suppress melatonin as well? Say you’re trying to avoid some type of artificial light at night so you wear an eye mask. Is the eye mask sufficient or would the skin need to be shielded as well?

    • says

      Skin exposure to light can have a mild effect on melatonin production according to a study that was done at Boston University (I think).

      I usually wear a PVC catsuit while watching T.V. at night… it works really well. ;)

    • Chris Kresser says

      No, I don’t think artificial light is likely to *significantly* suppress melatonin via its effects on the skin. The orange goggles are sufficient.

    • says

      Robb Wolf mentioned on a podcast that exposure to light has been shown to affect the circadian rhythms of profoundly blind people. The mechanism was something carried on the surface of red blood cells from what I recall. I think it might have been in this episode but sadly the link to the transcript is broken and I’ve not got time to listen to it to check:

      http://robbwolf.com/2011/01/04/the-paleo-solution-episode-61/

      Robb didn’t get into quite how much light it would take, though he advises sleeping in a pitch dark room – and from personal experience, and to my surprise, it works really well.

      I’n still waiting to try the Uvex glasses since Amazon’s courier lost my first order somewhere over the Atlantic! ;)

      • Chris Kresser says

        Blind people are still affected by light exposure because there are receptors in the eye that have nothing to do with vision, but are acted on by light to entrain circadian rhythms. I think it has more to do with this than with light hitting the skin, but I could be wrong.

        • says

          Makes sense to me Chris. Though I’m sure there was some mention of someone without retinas still being affected by light. Just thought it was interesting to note but now that the PDF transcript has been fixed – it wasn’t that episode in which Robb mentioned it after all (to save anyone the trouble of looking or listening).

          But getting into the detail here of course. Ultimately sleeping in a pitch black room I find works really well – whatever the mechanism :)

          • says

            I highly recommend the book ‘Lights Out! Sugar, Sleep and Survival’. I t really goes into the detail on the subject and I have learned a great deal from it. They actually site a study that indicates that light exposure on the skin does affect melatonin levels, but I am not sure to what extent. Really a great book for anyone interested in the topic of sleep.

      • McPeak says

        David, maybe they will send your second pair by drones:) Enjoy your glasses when they finally arrive because I am going to get a pair for my whole family. Glad I came across this article!

    • says

      Hi Kaitlyn, Excellent question! Turns out that only your eyes need to be in the dark in order for your body to produce melatonin. I have been following the research closely by Drs David Blask, George Brainard, Richard Stevens and others… and attended their lectures. Dr David Blask also clarified that you do NOT need to be asleep… just in the dark–pitch black, for a healthy body to produce melatonin. Although, Dr Brainard emphasized that dim red or dim amber night lights positioned close to the flock outlets would minimally affect the circadian, and would be a sensible solution for a late night, safe trip to the bathroom. They both emphasized that the circadian wants bright sunny blue sky days, and dark-dark nights.

    • brian says

      I’m not so sure about exposing skin to light. Only our eyes have melanopsin. Some studies say you can suppress melatonin by using the skin but another could not repeat the effects. Perhaps some light slipped through the sides of the eye mask in the study. It doesn’t take much light to decrease melatonin levels. Personally, I find that eye masks fall off during sleep.

      A cheap way to black out your room is taping cardboard over your windows and taping black duct tape on the hinge side of your doors.

  4. says

    I find f.lux helps a lot but I also use (on a PC):

    http://www.pangobright.com/

    Which turns down the overall brightness of the monitor – and lets you put it back up again to where you like it during the day (or when developing images on a calibrated monitor in my case) all with a couple of mouse clicks.

    • Angel says

      Hey, that app is awesome – thanks for the link! Took a little close reading to avoid all the ads, but it installed easily and it couldn’t be much simpler to use. My monitor isn’t easy to dim – this makes it much easier.

    • JMH says

      I installed it, and my very skin sighed with relief.
      But everytime I clicked on something, it flashed, which was even worse than the too-bright screen to begin with. I’m sure there’s a way to fix it, some setting I’ve got set poorly, but I’m not clever enough to figure it out and my googlefu is failing me. Have you heard of anything like that?

      • says

        Sorry JMH – that is a small problem with Pangobright.

        To get techy: I’m guessing what the app does is to create a dark layer “on top” of everything else (at the front) which allows the clicks from the mouse through to other programs. When some other program displays something new, that new things is sent to the “top” (front) and so isn’t hidden by the dark layer. But then Pangobright immediately notices that something is in front of it and gets back “on top”.

        This is by way of saying that I doubt it’s changeable for Pangobright. It would need an entirely different program to achieve the dimming of the screen. I’d love to find one which would avoid that problem!

        For me it’s not a big issue since I tend to use it only last thing as I wind down for the evening.

        @Angel and Jeremy Nelms – glad it’s useful! :)

        • JMH says

          Yeah, I figured it’s arguing with some other program for control over the brightness and occasionally loses. I figure if I was a bit more of an educated sys-admin I could figure out what, and how to revoke its permissions, but alas I’m just tech smart enough to be frustrated. *grin* At least I know it’s not just me, then. Thanks though.

      • Julie says

        I also felt the same kind of relief! My screen doesn’t flash if I click on something. It hasn’t failed me, except when it just disappeared from my computer once for some reason. I love it.

    • says

      However, it is not ideal because there still remains high blue in the emitted spectrum. One inexpensive solution is to use a cheap red plastic transparent clipboard– and pop it onto the screen.

    • Julie says

      High fat raw cheese and dates sounds good. f.lux is is AWESOME. I have it on my computer and my phone. It makes such a difference.

    • Chris Kresser says

      Yes, but not every night. If I notice that my sleep is starting to get funky, I’ll wear them. (Or if I have to use the computer after it gets dark for any significant length of time.)

      • Dan says

        Great article, Chris!

        According to the book, “Great Sleep! Reduced Cancer!: A Scientific Approach to Great Sleep and Reduced Cancer Risk,” by Richard L. Hansler (http://amzn.com/1419690388), there is no need to put the glasses on right after sundown. The best way to use the glasses is to put them on 9 to 10 hours before you usually wake up. And do that consistently — without changing your wake/sleep times by more than a few minutes on any day. If you are getting 8 hours of sleep every night, then you only need to wear the glasses for an hour before bed.

        Furthermore, Hansler says the research on melatonin indicates that a consistent “rhythm” is key (that’s why they call it a “circadian rhythm”!) After all, humans evolved for millions of years with circadian rhythms that were unable to change by more than 5 minutes each day.

        So, the glasses are most effective when they are used in a routine each evening that the body can get used to. So, it really doesn’t make sense to use the glasses after sundown unless you were going to do it every single night. Far easier to just put the glasses on a hour or two before bedtime, and wake up at the same time each day.

        The book is a useful one to read as he explains how the glasses can be used to combat Jet Lag or late night shift work by putting them on at specific intervals to readjust the circadian rhythm. Highly recommend it for anyone interested in this.

  5. Katherine says

    Chris, this is not about artificial light wrecking sleep but is about sleep wrecking no less. Maybe you could address it in an article at some point. As the parent of a 3 year old and a new baby, I wonder now more than ever…what are the long term effects of sleep deprivation for an entire year for each child on the parent? I am breastfeeding a year as I did with my first. Of course in the beginning the sleep is short and totally fragmented. As time goes on, however, even when the baby sleeps well, my body wakes me up in no uncertain terms, which will continue until weaning. Nobody can do anything to help me get a full night of sleep, and this time around I can’t even nap during the day since I have a toddler. It seems that sleep is such a necessity, yet parents, especially nursing mothers, are robbed of it relentlessly. I know, I know, the baby needs to be with the mother. I appreciate that, I really do. I just always wonder why, if, as adults, we need continuous sleep so badly (and boy do I ever!), is it taken away from us for literally years of our life? My mom always said mother nature got it wrong in that regard. In the meantime, I sure hope no negative studies of a single cup of coffee ever come to pass.

    • says

      Katherine,
      Richard Hansler addresses this in his e book Great Sleep!Reduced Cancer! They sell a nursery kit on the website http://www.lowbluelights.com. The idea is that both the mother and the baby should not be exposed to blue light during the night. Melatonin suppression may even be playing a role in postpartum depression. I was surprised to read that babies do not produce their own melatonin but get it in the breast milk. Think of the implications of that! My babies are all grown up but I have been using the glasses and lightbulbs while training puppy and I believe it has helped me get back to sleep.

    • mister worms says

      That is a really good question, Katherine. More lost sleep one of the primary things keeping me from wanting kid #2. DD is 4 now and I’m still recovering from the sleep deprivation; her first year put my body over the edge. If I had to do it all over again I would have quit night nursing much sooner (8 or 9 mos. vs. the 13 or 14 mos. we ended at). DD nursed for 3.5 years total which I’m happy for but the night nursing was bad for both of us in hindsight. It was disruptive to my sleep and hers as well.

      • Joe Wrigley says

        We ended up cosleeping and my wife could nurse while still asleep or at least with much less disruption to everybody’s sleep. Seems more natural, too.

        • Bettina says

          Yes, co-sleeping rocks! I’ve been nursing for more than four years now and I don’t feel sleep deprived at all. My second child was born 16 months ago and is still feeding at night. When there is an exceptional night where I have to get up to comfort him, I can really feel the difference! Nursing while half-asleep is definitely so much easier. For me, Attachment Parenting (co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding) is similar to Paleo in that it looks at our life from an evolutionary point of view. Here’s an interesting article one year ago about how it is to have several chunks of sleep at night inside of an uninterrupted 8-hour sleep: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16964783

  6. Heather says

    I purchased some glasses about a month or so ago. I love them. I do wear them daily because while I have never had issues falling asleep (or even staying) my sleep can get pretty screwy if I’m not careful. I’m high strung – not like I used to be thanks to Primal. I put them on and I can feel my eyes relax – I take them and they start to “tighten” up again. And within an hour I’m feeling pretty sleepy.

  7. dancinpete says

    Another option is changing the colour of your artificial lights. This is now possible (yet still costly) with new LED lighting. However, costs are dropping significantly every year.

    http://www.meethue.com/en-US

    disclaimer: I work for philips lighting, but not for the division that makes this product>

  8. says

    I have f.lux on my computer, and while I’m sure it helps somewhat, even if I have the brightness turned all the way down I sleep poorly if I use my computer within an hour of bedtime. I have a pair of the UVEX glasses, and with those I can continue working on my computer with no ill effects on my sleep. The UVEX glasses are very good and quite cheap ($9).

    The effects of those glasses on melatonin suppression is remarkable– they completely block the effect.

    • says

      I’ve noticed the same thing when I use the Solar Shield brand. I was up until 1 AM doing work the other night and fell asleep nearly immediately when I finally got to bed, thanks to the goggles. Normally I’d be tossing and turning and totally amped up from all the light exposure. (Now if I can just find a way to get all my work done at a more reasonable hour…)

    • Chris Kresser says

      Yeah, such a remarkably effective, cheap and non-invasive (if you don’t mind looking a little strange) tool!

    • Kyle says

      The lense quality of those things has to be terribl for $9. Cheap sunglasses hurt my eyes and I think I’ve read have negative effects with long term use. Although I think that had something to do with tricking your eyes into letting too much light in…. anyways one more thing to worry about. Damaging vision by looking through cheap lenses for hours each day.

  9. Evan White says

    I installed f.lux, but usually when I am working late, I’m handling color sensitive materials on the computer, so I usually just turn it off. The moral of this story is: don’t work on digital art late at night.

  10. Ty Fyter says

    Hey Chris!
    Great article, definitely will “share” it on fb. In regards to melatonin production, bluelight and goggles: is blue light entering through the eye the major factor in melatonin? I like the idea of having those amber lenses (and already use f.lux) but I’m curious about blue light hitting the skin…does that have an effect, if any?

    Thanks,
    Ty

    • Chris Kresser says

      I looked into it a bit further this afternoon, and light hitting the skin does, in fact, impact melatonin as David suggested. I am getting the full-text of a study that showed that transdermal light applied at the knee suppresses melatonin.

      • says

        Thanks very much for looking into that more Chris – really interesting area!

        All credit to Robb W though – I just soak up the information from his podcasts (and yours!).

      • Dan says

        The study was likely flawed as it was never reproduced by anyone, ever.

        The original study: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/279/5349/396.abstract

        If the skin was that sensitive, the study should have been easily replicated. But, to this day, nobody has been able to do it.

        More likely the pulsing light behind the knee triggered another melatonin suppressor that had nothing to do with light. For instance, melatonin can be suppressed by sound (i.e. your alarm clock), but light just happens to be a stronger influence than your other senses. For all we know, the pulsing light had a slight static charge or infrared heat pulse that affected melatonin.

        And, besides, there is far more evidence out there to suggest that light on skin does NOT suppress melatonin:

        http://www.researchgate.net/publication/12234041_Bright_light_exposure_of_a_large_skin_area_does_not_affect_melatonin_or_bilirubin_levels_in_humans

            • Chris Kresser says

              Dan sent me a study suggesting that light stimulation on the skin is sufficient to suppress melatonin. I haven’t read the full-text yet, and maybe Dan can weigh in here, but I suspect the effect is considerably less than bright light on the retina.

              • says

                Slightly confused – I assumed that Dan was only referencing studies which showed that melatonin production was not affected by light on the skin.

                Since you know Robb W well Chris – I wonder if you have time to ask him what it was that I have a fuzzy memory of him talking about?

                For what it’s worth, I agree that intuitively the retina is what mainly drives this. I’m just curious to know what the evidence is for the effect of light on skin.

                Thanks for taking the time!

                • Dan says

                  That’s the Campbell and Murphy study I was referring to, that nobody has been able to reproduce. I believe they used a biliblanket under the knees and supposedly suppressed melatonin.

                  What I’m saying is that the Campbell and Murphy study is likely flawed since nobody else on the planet has been able to reproduce it.

                  If skin was that sensitive to melatonin, the results should have been easy to reproduce. No such luck however. It was a fluke.

                  My sense is that melatonin in the Campbell and Murphy study was suppressed by an exogenous factor — such as heat, sound, static charge, etc. and the researchers just wrongly assumed that it was the biliblanket.

                  And even if Campbell and Murphy discovered something (high doubtful, since it can’t be reproduced) the study is pretty useless for real world applications since nobody sleeps with a biliblanket under their kneecaps. :)

              • says

                I was just thinking back to watching movies set in older times when wearing full pajamas at night was common. I wonder if this was the reason why. Is fabric covering the skin enough to block the light?

  11. JATIV says

    I’ve been using f.lux, a nearly completely dark bedroom, electronic candles with timers and red light bulbs for quite a while now and got great results with those.

    I recently added the amber glasses and they made a noticeable difference as well as tv watching was one issue that all of the other items did not address. Now I’ll find myself getting sleepy and yawning while watching tv. On the nights I forget to wear the amber glasses I’ll be wide awake until I turn off the tv.

    A completely dark bedroom was a big help but I found that cracking the window shade just a few inches allowed enough natural light in in the morning to help wake me up. Otherwise I had a tendency to just keep sleeping.

    The electronic candles are great. They give off a warm yellow/orange/red glow and allow me to turn off all of the regular lights in my house at night. Most are set to come on automatically at 6pm each night and turn off at 11pm when I head to bed. I keep an additional one in the bedroom that runs from 11pm till 4am in case I need to get up during the night. Completely dark is wonderful but can be a pain for shins and toes if you need to get up.

    • says

      I agree with the electronic candles – I just put one in the hallway, the bedroom and the bathroom. They give off just enough light to see and the warm glow is calming.

  12. sheila says

    I use the uvex glasses. They work great, however, I have to lift them from my eyes a lot to get a clear view of what I’m doing while cooking. Some things, like food doneness are hard to decipher.

  13. Susan says

    I use Gunnars lenses and love them but I don’t remember to use them all the time. Seems easier to just get off the computer at a set time every night.

  14. LinD says

    LOL… One night I was adjusting the TV color, contrast, etc while wearing my Uvex glasses. Ummmmm, didn’t look too good the next day. ;-) I don’t recommend that.

    I did buy a pair of nice looking frames from my eye doctor (that fit me almost three years ago with Ortho-K lenses I wear while sleeping/take out next morning and can see all day!) with the blue-blocking lenses in them and use those, especially when out after dark and don’t want to look like a complete dork with the Uvex glasses. Though I did go to Costco one night and wore them. I was kind of disappointed that no one looked at me strangely The other frames do fit/feel better than the Uvex pair. I hope they are as effective. The optician seemed to think they would be, but I have my doubts. I figure they are better than nothing.

    Well written post, Chris, that needs to be shared. I’ll do just that!

  15. David says

    Chris, usually I take a shower at night before bed. It would be hard to wear those glasses in the shower. Maybe I should take the shower earlier perhaps at 7pm so wearing the glasses is not needed at that time? How do you handle this?

    • says

      Dimmer switch in bathroom helps a lot with this. I usually shower late at night, and I would get no sleep if I did it in standard bathroom lighting. Put dimmers on all bathroom (overhead/vanity) light switches and this will help some. I keep it almost fully dark in there–just enough light to find the soap and the towel afterward.

    • says

      As one reader mentioned earlier – use one electric candle in the bathroom. It gives off a warm yellow glow and is enough light to be able to shower, brush teeth, etc.

    • says

      Be REALLY grateful they will grow out of this. I have a 21 year old with autism who still keeps baby/toddler unpredictable hours, so….there are people out there who never get to move out of that stage of life. I’m replying half in jest, too, but sometimes a new perspective is uplifting. If you have a healthy kid, hold on tight with gratitude to the platitude “this, too, shall pass.”

    • Sean Conrad says

      Apply the information in this article that’s what you can do.

      I had three within 2 years – now one 3 and 18 month old twins. I figured out that light was an issue about 6 months in with the first child. They all sleep 10 – 11 hours a night now. Every night. I found orange and yellow light bulbs for lights in their rooms and instituted a “no screens” policy after supper. I turn lights out and keep lights very low after the sun goes down. I make certain to give the babies their night feeding in a pitch black room. On the odd occasion when they would wake up, or when they were doing night feedings I made sure there was almost no light, and what there was had no blue. You can’t read with a red light very well (with most children’s books) but it works great for a feeding/changing light in the middle of the night. BTW Lowe’s has different colors of CFD bulbs – red, orange, and yellow seem to work great.

      There are other behavioral things we did as well, but light has been a critical factor for my family’s sleep and health.

  16. says

    Interestingly, I find that using the Internet within an hour before bed, even with F.lux installed, the brightness turned all the way down, and orange goggles on, still disrupts my sleep–it takes longer to fall asleep, I wake up more easily and more often, and feel more groggy when I get up.

    I suspect that there is something uniquely stimulating, and thus sleep-disrupting, about using the Internet. The instant access to an endless supply of information, the surrogate social interaction, the visual and cognitive stimulation…all of this is highly discordant with the evolutionary environment, or even with the post-agricultural human environment prior to the 21st century.

    My sleep is of the highest quality when I strictly avoid using the computer at all after sundown. Reading a book, meditating, or playing/listening to music in low light (preferably candlelight) seems to work the best for improving my sleep, mood, and everything else.

    • says

      For what it’s worth, I’ve noticed the same effect Brendan. I guess it shows that there’s rarely one “fix” for anything – life and our bodies are too complex for that.

      But of course everyone still looks for what “the” problem is! :)

    • Diane says

      You’re absolutely right, Brendan. I couldn’t have said it better: “I suspect that there is something uniquely stimulating, and thus sleep-disrupting, about using the Internet. The instant access to an endless supply of information, the surrogate social interaction, the visual and cognitive stimulation…”

      I intend to get the Uvex glasses mentioned, but the behavior has to change as well. When I go to bed late after being on the computer–for any reason–and I can’t sleep, I realize it’s because my mind has been so active. I’m either caught up in the story of a movie, or thinking about the email I’m composing, or absorbing new information when doing health research…and when the little wheels in my mind are spinning fast, they don’t just stop when I lie down, even if I’m not consciously thinking about any of those things. It’s the focused concentration. Maddening. I wish I could just flip a switch, but if I want to get good sleep, I’ll have to curtail my activities.

      • says

        Being on the computer, iPad or the Kindle Fire at night is too stimulating for me as well. I now try to stop all electronics by 7 or 8 PM. The only exception is the Kindle Paperwhite – I read on this device and turn the brightness all the way down (increase the font) and read not too exciting books. I would rather read this way than with a hard copy book and a bright book light.

  17. Whitefox999 says

    I was wondering if you guys think regular blue-light blocking polarized sunglasses would be similarly effective as the Uvex brand – they block UV and blue it states, but also some percentage of the rest of the visible spectrum. Do you guys think normal sunglasses would block too much in a dark environment, such that a cheap blue-blocking only pair would be better for doing things at night?

  18. Sarah Murphy says

    Hi Chris – thanks so much for this article. I have had lots of trouble sleeping and so far the best remedies are limiting stress and not working after a certain point each night. The modern work life unfortunately seems to be a slow death by sitting and computer brain drain. I’ve tried f.lux but unfortunately it violates my work’s Internet security policy! I’m going to try the amber glasses because part of my daily de-stress routine involves TV episodes of Modern Family. A good laugh never hurt anyone.
    I do have a question for you though – when I have the opportunity to expose myself to sunlight should I not wear sunglasses in order to maximize exposure? Or is the potential damage to my eyes not worth the risk?
    I live in MN and during the winter I’ve avoided wearing sunglasses to maximize natural sunlight exposure unless it puts me at risk for a car accident. (Which is rare – seems the gray winter days are unending this year!)

    • Whitefox999 says

      Sarah,

      Sunglasses won’t make a difference in terms of vitamin D production, because it’s light hitting skin that matters. You should abstain from sunglasses for the first 20min or so however because your body’s natural sunblock chemicals are light-activated from your eyes. Putting them on after 20min will mean max skin and eye protection and continued vit D creation. I believe i read this in the book ‘survival of the sickest’.

      • Sarah Murphy says

        Thanks for the information! I’m more concerned about the melatonin production than vitamin d. Since the vitamin d production to your point is done through light hitting skin – I have to supplement or hit the electric beach in the winter since the only skin I ever have exposed in the winter here is my nose. I doubt that will do much to help produce vitamin d! My trip to FL in the next month will help. It’s my understanding the melatonin production is stimulated through the light exposure in the eyes. That is why I’m questioning if I should always avoid sunglasses in the winter months to maximize the light exposure. But maybe it doesn’t matter? It would be a trade-off with melatonin production and crows feet around my eyes from squinting. : )

  19. Bet says

    I just installed f.lux on my laptop. Now my screen is orangey. But I’m going to try it. I hate any light in the room. My husband says I am a vampire. He likes to have light. I usually go to be before him and I try to make the room very dark. When he was away for a week, I was in heaving with a completely dark room. Maybe I should get a sleeping mask.

  20. lucy says

    I am so lucky that I sleep well, and always have, regardless of whether I use devices before bedtime or not.

    My question is though, my room is never dark due to street lights outside shining in my window all night. Could this ambient street light be affecting my melatonin production during sleep, and should I do something about?

    I guess in nature we would sleep in absolute darkness (except perhaps for fire light).

    If this is the case (even though we’re not necessarily aware of it, and still sleep well) would an eye ‘patch’ such as you get on airplanes, or blackout curtains, be a good idea?

    • Dan says

      Fire light does not affect melatonin production since the color temperature of firelight is less than (i.e. warmer) than sunrise. Oil lamp, candle and fire light are all warm (low blue) light (~1800ºK). Sunrise starts at 2000ºK and quickly increases by the minute to higher (bluer) color temperatures. So, melatonin is affected by color temperature and intensity. Your eyelids are purposefully thin so that you don’t miss the blue light at sunrise when your eyes are closed.

      If you close your eyelids and can notice a significant difference in the amount of light when either you cover your eyes or you don’t, then it probably is affecting your melatonin. But, if it’s only a slight difference, then it probably won’t make that much of a difference. But, generally speaking, it depends on the color temperature and intensity of the light entering the room.

      • Dan says

        And just to clarify, color temperature in degrees Kelvin increases as your light becomes more blue and decreases in degrees Kelvin as it becomes more amber. Fire light is very “warm” (low blue) so it has a lower color temperature. Sunlight is “cooler” (high blue) so it has a higher color temperature in degrees Kelvin. It’s confusing, and somewhat backwards.

        To illustrate this, see this chart:

        http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Incand-3500-5500-color-temp-comparison.png

        The reason why electric lightbulbs suppress melatonin is because the “warmest” tungsten lightbulb you can get at Home Depot starts at 2,700ºK. Even a 60W bulb has too much blue light and is not low enough on the color temperature scale:

        http://i-cdn.apartmenttherapy.com/uimages/re-nest/4_14_2008-colortemp.png

        A light bulb would need to be around 1,800ºK in order to replicate fire light — which does not suppress melatonin. And again, sunrise starts at 2,000ºK and quickly increases from there.

        Lowbluelights.com sells lights that are very low color temperature and do not suppress melatonin — they are perfect for a nursery when mothers need to nurse and babies need to keep their melatonin flowing on a particular rhythm. It basically just simulates fire light. You know, the same light people have been using for millions of years up until electric lights were mass produced.

        Incidentally, the only intense blue light that our ancestors were exposed to at night would have been a full moon. And it’s no wonder that full moons were always associated with mischief and weird behavior. Perhaps it was from everyone’s melatonin being disrupted!

  21. jenn says

    Any suggestions for those of us that work the graveyard shift? I work a 12.5 hour day with a crazy to explain schedule basically 4.5 days one week and 3.5 days the next and due to kids schedules I switch back to a “normal” schedule on my days off.

    • Dan says

      There is an entire chapter dedicated to a graveyard shift protocol for using the low-blue glasses in the book, “Great Sleep! Reduced Cancer!: A Scientific Approach to Great Sleep and Reduced Cancer Risk,” by Richard L. Hansler (http://amzn.com/1419690388).

      The book is very cheap (less than $5) and it will walk you through the steps of using the glasses at the right time to create a circadian rhythm. Well worth the price.

    • says

      Hi Jenn,
      It is important for you to know that in 2007, the World Health Organization degreed shift work as a probable carcinogen due to circadian disruption by artificial light at night disrupting their ability to produce melatonin.
      I believe that all businesses and institutions who employ shift workers ought to notify their employees of the health risks, pay them more because of these risks, and educate their shift-worker employees how to minimize their risks and train their circadian to produce melatonin naturally. Not to do so, would be similar to hiring employees to work with asbestos without adequate warnings and training. btw, Belgium employers have already begun monetary compensation for their cancer victims when linked to shift-work.

      • Jennifer says

        Fascinating. As a midwife, I am faced with unpredictable sleep disturbances, without any rhyme or reason whatsoever. I just do the best I can. I wonder now if this had to do with my nurslings’ poor sleep. Perhaps since my melatonin levels were deranged, theirs were too.

  22. Mszudarek says

    Or… One can simply take 1mg of melatonin and be 100x ahead of the game. And not look like an imbecile wearing sunglasses indoors.

    Think about it.

    • Dan says

      100x times ahead of the game? Oral melatonin dosing can be highly variable from one person to the next and the timing is crucial as taking it at the wrong time can reset the internal clock and promote insomnia when you want to sleep.

      The glasses are just a return to pre-electric lighting as far as the body is concerned. Far safer and cheaper.

  23. tam says

    Is there any way to adjust the focus on the Uvex orange safety glasses? I can’t focus on things close, like my phone or a smaller font on the computer.

    As long as you have a dimmer and your light isn’t LED, dimming it will make it more ‘orange’.

  24. PTalavera says

    How about the light receptors on our skin?
    Artifical light on skin after sundown messes with melatonin too. Is it best to cover up after sundown too? As well as the glasses??

  25. tam says

    Last night I gave myself 2 hours in a room with a lamp plugged into a dimmer, dimmed so it looked orange, and a tv on movie picutre mode (not dynamic or standard), and all other little led’s covered in socks. I found myself randomly looking away from the tv to rest my eyes. At the end of it, I felt like I had taken a strong sleeping pill.

  26. Michael C says

    Hi Chris, have you looked into the effect that sodium fluoride (which is in tap water amongst many other things) has on circadian rhythms and on the pineal gland/the production of melatonin? If so, I would be very interested to hear what you think about it.

  27. Charley says

    Chris,
    Just wanted to say thank you for the good information on the talk you gave with the Village Green Network yesterday. Very informative and helpful.

  28. says

    I’ve been using f.lux for about 2 years and it makes a humongous difference , especially if you work on your computer at night. There was one night I turned it off because my computer was running slow and I nearly was blinded at the light my computer was emitting! I just purchased the amber-lenses . I know they’ll be of great help.

    • Dan says

      Special glasses wouldn’t really do much. Warm light doesn’t technically trigger melatonin production — in reality it just doesn’t block it from being produced. So, you can have a bonfire on a sunny beach, but the bonfire won’t make you sleepy because even a small amount of cool sunlight is all you need to prevent melatonin during the day. The temperature of daylight is already perfect as it is — at least from an evolutionary standpoint — so there’s not really any need to toy with the light from the sun.

      http://i-cdn.apartmenttherapy.com/uimages/re-nest/4_14_2008-colortemp.png

      There are special lights that people can use to establish circadian rhythm. The lights have some risks to the eyes (i.e. UV damage) but they can be very beneficial in places where sunlight is difficult to obtain at different times of the year. But, for most people, simply getting some sunlight into your house early in the morning is all you need to establish circadian rhythm.

  29. Renni says

    I bought this motion sensor night light at Walmart after reading Lights Out: Sugar, Sleep and Survival by Wiley several months ago. — http://www.amazon.com/GE-50723-Motion-Sensing-Auto-On-Nightlight/dp/B00032ATWO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365309047&sr=8-1&keywords=motion+sensor+night+light — The light is a dim white light, but my room remains dark until I wave my hand and the light goes on in the bathroom for me to take a bio-break. Wiley seems to have some controversy because of her interview with Lynn Sherr on ABC, but her book seemed to make sense. She said taking melatonin shrinks the pineal gland. I believe Robb Wolf recommended sleeping at a temperature no higher than 70 degrees. I like to use the sleep/eye mask that is contoured so the fabric doesn’t touch my eyes; it feels kind of spongey and I found them at TJ Max, but looks similar to this one on Amazon without the nose piece — (http://www.amazon.com/Dream-Essentials-Dreams-Contoured-Earplugs/dp/B000CCI4YU/ref=sr_1_cc_2?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1365310129&sr=1-2-catcorr&keywords=eye+sleep+mask) — I also covered the light on my smoke alarm with several layers of blue paint tape (so it doesn’t get tacky) and I bought a spring rod shower curtain (inexpensive at Big Lots) to place black out curtains (from Bed, Bath and Beyond) in my window as I have a vertical window treatment outside the window opening. My TV has to be shut completely down at the surge protector because of the red sensor light and it is behind armoire doors. Additionally, I started wearing ear plugs so I can listen to my breathing to try to shut off my brain (mostly singing songs, not stressful stuff). Like J.W. Simpkins comment above, I am starting the epsom salt baths too (inexpensive at Big Lots). By the way, his suggestion on the cat suit gave me a belly laugh. Besides the sexy ones, there were some that looked like the men from the Big Bang Theory sitcom show would wear. With tv showing most of the shows on the computer including the news, I don’t have to put my tv on at night; I just watch them during the early evening or on the weekends.Thanx for the discussion and other book recommendations. I am ordering the Uvex goggles for not only me, but my children who are not sleeping well. My college child is overwhelmed with homework and stays on the computer until late.

  30. debbie says

    In your article, the word “f.lux” was a link to this website
    http://stereopsis.com/flux/ where you can download the program
    for free. I wanted to check in first and make sure this is the legit
    website for that download. Would you please provide some links
    that you know are safe? Thank you.

  31. Nik says

    I have f.lux on my computer – but the lowest setting 3400K – isn’t that still too high?? Wouldn’t around 2000K be better?? Is there a program out there which can go lower? Or would manually lowering the blue light on your monitor be the solution?

    • Dan says

      f.lux on the Mac can get down to 2300ºK. They call it “candle” setting, but in reality a candle is actually around 1800ºK. Anything below 2000ºK would be ideal — but f.lux cannot make your monitor that warm.

      f.lux is really intended to mimic your ambient light, whatever that may be (halogen, tungsten, etc). The idea is to have your monitor mimic the effect of reading a book under your lights. Keep in mind that even if your monitor were 1800ºK and your lights were 3600ºK, your melatonin will still be suppressed by the 3600ºK lightbulbs.

      In any case, lowbluelights.com sells plastic monitor filters that will filter out all blue wavelengths. You just press them down on top of your iPad, iPhone or computer monitor. They even sell them for your TV.

      However, in my opinion, nothing beats the glasses — since they filter out all blue light for you.

  32. Nik says

    Thanks Dan! Nice that it can go down to 2300K on the Mac.. That would be ok I guess.. And then no lightbulbs… Does anybody know another program that can go that low on a PC?

    I have a pair of glasses but they are just too annoying for me. So I would rather make my surrounding light dimmed. On my monitor I can go into the settings and adjust red/green/blue – I guess I could just turn the blue all the way down??

    • Dan says

      Audrey is correct. There is really nothing you can do to any monitor to get it below 2000ºK. Keep in mind that the morning is sunrise is around 2000ºK, so you really need to be warmer than 2000ºK to encourage melatonin production

      If you think about it, we evolved to wake at sunrise (i.e. when light becomes cooler than 2000ºK) — which causes our bodies to suppress melatonin and increase cortisol as part of our circadian rhythm. So, sitting in a dark room with a 2300ºK monitor won’t do you very much good in the long run — it would be like trying to get ready for sleep while staring at an early morning/dawn sun. It’s certainly better than sitting in a room with 3600ºK lamps, but your melatonin will still be suppressed.

      If you don’t like the glasses, your best bet are the low-blue monitor filters from lowbluelights.com. Not much more you can do beyond that.

  33. Audrey Fischer says

    Hi Nik, There is nothing you can do at night via computer settings or software that will eliminate enough of the blue wavelengths emitted from your computer monitor and still allow the user a maximum natural melatonin production. Using a filter over your screen (assuming an especially dark room) or wearing the glasses that filter out all the blue are the best options other than NOT using the computer at night. Personally, I am trying my best to reduce computer use at night, and starting my day earlier. In the morning, the blue light emitted from the computer is actually an advantage, and helps wake me up!

  34. Nik says

    Thanks Dan & Audrey :-) I think I will give the screen filter a try! I am curious to test this for a period of time – I have always wondered why I have problems falling asleep and often wake up feeling beat up – I eat pretty healthy, exercise, meditate and have very little daily stress – so I’m thinking maybe this will have an effect – and if it doesn’t I guess tried most anyway:)

    • Dan says

      Low-blue lighting/filters are a great start for encouraging melatonin production and stopping evening cortisol. And you may notice that playing with low-blue lighting alone is all you need to reset your body.

      However, if you find that low-blue lighting isn’t enough to get your evening cortisol down you should consider trying HeartMath® (specifically their “Heart Lock” technique with any of their heart monitoring devices) while listening to relaxing music right before bed. After a few weeks of that pre-bedtime routine, your evening cortisol should normalize, if you are generally healthy. I believe Kresser recommends the “Rest Assured” sleep CDs — which is another natural approach to reducing evening cortisol. Good luck!

  35. Andrew says

    When I feel sleepy, I get ready for bed (turn of lights, clean teeth etc). By the time I’m in bed I’m wide awake – very alert. I then can’t sleep for hours, and my room is very dark. Even if I keep the yellow tinted glasses on the whole time, it makes no difference. I wondered weather the walking around getting ready for bed, maybe even using the noisy electric touchbrush, is giving off other hormones telling me to wake up… As an experiment, one night I just went straight to bed without “getting ready for bed”, not even changing my clothes, and I found that I fell asleep really quickly. Maybe light is just one part of the puzzle…

  36. says

    I know I’m very sensitive to light – I get headaches & sore eyes if I sit in artificial light in the daytime, & I’ve gone to some trouble to make sure I get natural daylight or blue light… I’ve been aware of the desirability of darkness at night for sleep, & have used f.lux on my computer for some time now, as well as using only a flashlight if I get up in the night. But I didn’t know about the amber goggles -I’ll definitely check them out. Maybe it will help me sleep through the night properly.

  37. Teresa Dougherty says

    Check out this great book by T. S. Wiley “Lights Out” she goes into great depth about the importance of sleep, and the how and why lack of sleep (especially in complete darkness) can be detrimental to your health.

  38. theresa says

    Hi!,
    I have what you call Insomnia quite frequently and so I ‘ve discovered that Polaroid Sunglasses are ideal for my sleep at night. I’m not sayimg this will work for everyone but, It’s a real good way of limiting the light in your bedroom at night. Put your sunglasses on 1 hour before going to bed.
    Thanks for reading about my idea, hope this helps.

  39. Lael says

    I started wearing blue blocking glasses a few months ago and it did the trick for my insomnia. I immediately had trouble sleeping after installing energy saving LED lights around the house. The blue blocks made all the difference. At first I used a pair of darkened blue block sunglasses I happened to already have. I’ve since bought the pair Chris recommends on Amazon and they’re great. …A very economical solution to my sleepless nights.

  40. Amy says

    I do a lot of late night design work on the computer and find that ever since I used f.lux I definitely sleep better. I need my room to be dark when I sleep so I dimmed and blacked out my cable box and router lights with Dimmys which work wonderfully.

  41. Rory says

    I first read about the following from the book ‘Lights Out’ by T.S. Wiley and Bent Formby, Ph. D., then Googled it:
    “The circadian clock times a wide range of behavioral and bodily functions by controlling temperature and the release of hormones. And until now it has been widely believed that it is set by daily and seasonal changes in the light that enters through the eyes.

    “But our results challenge this belief. The study demonstrates that circadian rhythms in humans can be altered simply by shining light on the backs of people’s knees,” says Dr. Scott Campbell, director of the Laboratory of Human Chronobiology at Cornell University Medical College in White Plains, New York.

    Writing in the journal Science, Campbell and colleague Dr. Patricia Murphy describe an experiment in which volunteers agreed to spend four days at their laboratory in a dimly lit suite. Periodically, they sat in a reclining chair while the backs of their knees were exposed to bright light delivered through a fiber-optic pad in a housing strapped to their legs. The pad was adapted from those used to treat infants born with neonatal jaundice. None of the volunteers knew exactly when the light source was switched on.

    The knee was chosen as the site of the experiment because it was far from the eye, therefore minimizing any risk that light shown would enter the subject’s eye.

    The researchers noted that the light exposure on the back of the knee was associated with shifts in the timing of body temperature changes and in the release of the hormone melatonin from the pineal gland, located deep in the brain. ”

    Makes me wonder if the glasses are enough to make a difference then, if what they found above is true, that the skin is also light sensitive?

  42. says

    Hi Chris,

    Another fantastic article.
    Quick question: Does these glasses also inhibit the blue light emission?
    “Uvex 9176-020 x-act Amber safety specs with amber lens”

  43. Dan says

    For anyone who is interested, I bought the expensive amber glasses available from lowbluelights.com and they do appear to block more blue light than the Uvex $8 glasses. The more expensive lens is clearer and of a higher quality.

    I think the Uvex glasses are perfectly fine (they do block most of the blue light), but I can definitely say that the lowbluelights glasses block even more blue light. The company also offers a 30-day money back guarantee.

    • says

      Thanks Dan for the reassurance – I just bought the $70 Low Blue Light glasses and was wondering if I should have gotten the the $10 Uvex glasses instead.

  44. says

    this is good articles. when i was a kid, i don’t know why do i have to turn off the lights at night even my laptop. the explanation is easy to understand. thank you

    • Dan says

      Oral melatonin dosing can be highly variable from one person to the next and the timing of the dose is crucial as taking it at the wrong time can reset the internal clock and promote insomnia when you want to sleep.

      The glasses are just a return to pre-electric lighting as far as the body is concerned. Far safer and cheaper.

  45. Russ says

    Hi. Wraparounds over glasses are ok at home, but are there prescription amber wraparound glasses to wear out of the house at night?

    My optometrist said they they can get “Cocoon” prescription wraparound product, and they have a catalog. Anyone know about those?

    He mentioned something about polarization in addition to the amber. Would polarization be good, bad or indifferent?

    Also, there seem to be loads of Solar Shield clip-ons on ebay. Would those help even though they’re not wrap-around?

    Thanks
    Russ

  46. Barbara says

    Thanks so much for this article. Will be trying the glasses/goggles and f-lux. Need to find some way to cause better sleep as the “waking up” during night due to cortisol/adrenals/Hashimoto’s is obviously impacting my waking moments. Thank you once again for providing very useful information.

  47. says

    Chris, This thread has been going on for a while. Great topic. When I sailed at night, we used red lights in the boat cabin and bathroom to keep our night vision. I think those red lights made me drowsy! (Or was it the motion sickness?!)

    I like the NASA blue light therapy to tease the body into the circadian rhythm. Maybe the other secret is to get the right kind of light (sunlight?) during the right time of day.

    http://hms.harvard.edu/news/harvard-medicine/blues-cues

    Ohhh, evolution. The digital native generation is too young to have evolved past it. What’s next for human-sleep?

  48. Mitch Oubrey says

    Does anyone know if the Amazon Kindle PAPERLIGHT stop melatonin production? I have been considering getting one and wanted to hear some opinions from users before I end up getting another device that disrupts my sleep.

    • says

      Hi Mitch, If you use any electronic devises that emit any type of light (other than very dim amber or red) it is best to also use glasses that block out all emitted blue light. I use amber-colored glasses purchased at low-blue-lights.com. On the website, there is also an interview that is well-worth the time to listen to that explains in layman’s terms how light can interrupt melatonin production, and why this is a serious matter. I have studied this for years, and find this fascinating and alarming as to WHY it takes so much TIME to get the word out. So many people suffer needlessly. The bottom line is, your body needs dark-dark nights and bright-bright days. Your body senses this change through the retina, and this signal is sent to every internal cell within your body. Researchers discovered individual cells actually have a critically important circadian cycle. However, since the initial signal comes through the retina, blue-blocking glasses and sleeping masks are effective at night. Remember the other important part of the equation is BRIGHT, bright daylight. also see research by Drs David Blask, Stevens,George Brainard (Bud)

      • Mitch Oubrey says

        Audrey,
        Thank you for the quick reply & tips. I will def order a pair of those glasses to try out. I travel quite a bit and sometimes on the go it’s hard to bring everything along with you. I know the amazon kindle original ereader is not a backlit device. You do need an additional light to read it, just as you would a book. I was told there are apps for example that can print these articles to an epub or pdf format so you can later read these posts from Chris Kresser and others on the Kindle(with modified firmware)

        That is what I’m looking to do because I spend too much time on a computer.With a device as small as the Kindle, one could read it laying down, instead of a laptop which is a hotter heavier etc. The paperlight is supposed to have some special glow tech, which in theory does not project light to your face. So wondering if that would be ok to use without glasses before I plunk down $$.

    • says

      Mitch,

      I don’t know if the Kindle Paperwhite interferes with melatonin production – but I have found it works really well for me to read on it at night. Just turn the brightness all the way down and increase the font so you can still read. The screen becomes really dim. Reading a classic before bed really helps me to relax. I have tried reading hard copy books with different book lights – but I didn’t like how bright the book lights were. The PaperWhite sure works for me.

  49. Chris Sinclair says

    Hi There

    I have been suffering with really bad insomnia for a while now and it is really starting to make me feel poorly. I am 63 and enjoy writing but during the day I have lost all my concentration. I have sent for a pair of the glasses and I am praying they are going to work. I have tried melatonin tablets but no luck with them. I will keep you all posted. If they can help me then they must surely work.

  50. Sandy says

    Hi Chris, I mentioned to my eye doctor that I have been using blue-blocking glasses for the past couple of weeks and she warned me not to use lenses that are popularly sold directly to the public, citing some research she had recently seen at a conference, stating that some of these cheaper products may in fact cause some other eye damage. She didn’t have the study handy, but I’ve been looking for it in order to find out if this is valid, or if it’s an industry ploy to get people to buy the more expensive lenses from their eye dr. Have you heard anything at all about this? I can’t find any info on it. Thx.

  51. says

    I tried the amber goggles Chris recommended but they felt strange to me. I think I have found the solution though. On a recent trip to Japan, a Japanese friend told me about the eyeglass chain JINS, which sells glasses specifically designed to reduce eyestrain. They cut 50% of the blue light while letting in 85% percent of the regular light. So it’s not as severe as the amber ones and thus probably not as effective, but they look like regular glasses and I am hardly aware of the pale amber tint. I think this is a good compromise. Here is the page for them, in Japanese http://www.jins-jp.com/jins-pc/

  52. Jody says

    Great article! I have truly enjoyed reading all the comments as well. I did a google search on the overuse of otc melatonin, and this popped up. I’m thankful for that. I plan to incorporate several suggestions from this article to gain hold of a better night’s sleep. God Bless you all!

  53. Ethan says

    Is it simply the amber color of the lens that blocks the blue light? or is there more to it than that?

    I’ve read through all posts above and didn’t see an answer to this question, can someone please help shed some light?

    I already own a pair of oakley glasses that have orange color lenses and they’re really old so I don’t know if they technically block blue light or not. I think they maybe safety glasses too as the lens is one big piece. Can I achieve the same effect as the UVEX glasses with my orange oakleys or any glasses with an orange lens?

    thanks in advance for any help!

    • says

      Hi Ethan,
      My hubby & I each bought amber glasses from lowbluelights.com and are happy with them. They are perfect for the application and worth the price. There are a couple interviews on the website that explain the science behind the glasses and the effort to avoid blue light at night (unless you are working the night shift). There is a phone number that you can even call for additional information. Plus there is a money-back guarantee. Although I have loaned my glasses out before (to a cancer patient just until he got his own), i would never dream of returning mine. These glasses will not help a person who permanently lost their ability to produce melatonin… for a variety of reasons. Remember, bright light –sun light & blue light– during the DAY is essential… and just as important as the need for darkness & avoiding blue light at NIGHT. (amber night light is OK)

  54. Jone says

    Hi all sorry if this might sound as a silly question… Does the light exposure also affect the production of melanin (not melatonin) I mean that one that pigments our hair?
    Thanks!

  55. Kira Miftari says

    Does anyone know: I read that the red lights are good at night too, so I bought a bunch and really like them… Are they as good as Amber light?

  56. nick says

    First question: what about television – is there anything that can be done to adjust the light it emits? Second question: Does anyone use bright light therapy in the morning to also promote phase shifting of circadian rhythm or sleep cycle?

  57. Heather says

    Is there a link for the best amazon.com amber glasses? Uvex or other? Want to make sure I order the right ones. Thanks.

  58. Night Nurse Ro says

    Thank you for this informative article. I’ve been working nights for years, and I’ve no plans to alter my nocturnal schedule. I have however developed a severe vitamin D deficiency and can’t tolerate the house lights during the day/which is my night.
    I am in the process of putting a full spectrum grow light bulb in one of the fixtures in my bathroom to help me wake up at 4pm, and also increase my exposure to UV rays slightly to activate vitamin D. I was considering taking this a step further, and replacing other light bulbs with an artificial light that would mimic night time.
    Obviously the blue light being on the short spectrum, using movie magic and special effects blue blubs would be counter productive. Any suggestions on bulbs? Or is this too bizarre of an idea? I suppose I could use the amber glasses when walking around my house, but I’m looking for supplemental solutions. Thanks.

  59. says

    Been doing some more research.

    According to my research, green light will affect the melatonin levels at half rate, that blue light does.

    Which means one would have to filter out the green light too.

    Amber filters let in more green light then orange filters. Either of these let in some green light.

    For light bulbs, the only bulb that does not have blue or green light is red light bulbs.

  60. Peter says

    Hi Chris K,
    I just went looking for a pair of the Solar Shield amber-lensed goggles on Amazon after reading your article. They are showing as currently unavailable and add that they don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock. Could you recommend any other amber-lensed wraparounds designed for eyeglass wearers that would be comparable to these ones in both quality and price.
    Thanks, Peter

  61. Maria says

    Once reading about how blue lights affects melatonin production, I immediately started with shutting off all lights and electronic equipment 3 hours before bedtime. I’d sit up with only stearin candles and read. I did this for a few days in a row. Even the first night and day I noticed an enormous difference in sleep quality and energy. I got my Amber glasses after a few days of doing this and switched to using only Amber. Although they help, they had nowhere near the effect that switching off all lights had.

  62. Kris A. says

    I just installed a screen protector on my Kindle that claims it helps block blue light. I am wondering if anyone has information that supports this? I am desperate for a quality night of sleep…and a little addicted to using certain apps before bed. Am I just going to have to suck it up and curb my screen time?

    I have suffered from chronic insomnia for most of my life…well before any of the common blue light issues came to be.

    Thank you all for the information…good food for thought.

    • Dan says

      The orange screen filters are usually very good, but you need to remove any ambient light and you can’t even turn on a regular light bulb for the rest of the night once you start using them with the lights turned off — doing so would just suppress the circadian rhythm again. So, the glasses are just easier.

      In any case a lot of insomnia (not all) can be caused by blood sugar issues, which can trigger cortisol swings. And one of the best and easiest to improve blood sugar swings and poor sleep is with resistant starch.

      http://freetheanimal.com/2014/02/reported-benefits-resistant.html

      It can’t hurt to try it. Do a Google search for “resistant starch for newbies” and you’ll get a good primer on it.

    • says

      Kris, Remember this: Sunny MORNINGS are as important as dark NIGHTS. Do your best to curb night time use of tv and computers. Do yourself a favor and thrive in Dark-dark nights, and BRIGHT sunny mornings. That critical contrast is loved best by your circadian rhythm, which triggers and re-sets the clock of every single cell in your body. Get outside in the morning and suck up the blue light. Eat breakfast in a sunny room. (If it’s not sunny, OPEN YOUR COMPUTER-and absorb the computer’s blue light output.) Use only dim red or amber night lights.
      (also, Avoid late night snacks that contain linoleic acid, which feed cancer tumors.) Suggestion: use your bedroom for bedtime uses only . Get’s your mind in the right place, at the right time. : )

    • Diane says

      Kris A, have you had your vitamin D levels checked lately? I recently discovered that when I stop taking my D, I don’t sleep well and eventually get very depressed. This made me start researching D and I’ve been blown away by what I read about the vitamin D connection. Here are a few links:

      https://www.bulletproofexec.com/bulletproof-your-sleep-with-vitamin-d/
      http://drgominak.com/vitamin-d-3/

      Here’s a 15-minute segment of video by that doctor that’s very interesting:
      http://youtu.be/qeb3PtkCd_c

      Vitamin D is better than the flu shot (includes charts of ailments related to deficiency):
      http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/03/25/vitamin-d-deficiency-is-why-you-get-flu.aspx
      http://www.naturalnews.com/029760_vitamin_D_influenza.html

      And if you’re worried about toxicity (those comments are usually the first thing I hear when I mention D), read this:
      http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/12/27/vitamin-d-quiz.aspx

      Tons more on the Internet! However, I’ll also mention that magnesium is great for sleep, and for a lot of other things. It’s another extremely important nutrient that most people are deficient in. Reading the magnesium chapter in the Eades’ book “Protein Power Lifeplan” convinced me that I should never be without it!

      Tryptophan works well–I used to use it occcasionally–and I prefer it to melatonin. Actually, I don’t take melatonin any more because I have Hashimoto’s and we’re not supposed to use it…can’t remember why.

      And lastly, I’ve discovered that recently, my sleep problems were related to adrenal issues, and using various adrenal support products has helped immensely. The one I discovered recently that was almost an instant cure is called ADRENergize and you can get it on Amazon and elsewhere. Although “energize” is in the name, don’t worry, it doesn’t energize you, just supports the adrenals so you don’t overproduce cortisol at night…or whatever my body was doing! I got such good sleep while using it, but then became concerned about the cost (I’d paid a lot more at the health food store before I found it online) so I started trying an herbal product, but nothing has worked like this. I’m starting it again today.

      Someone commented that when you take it daily, you should skip the weekends to avoid having your adrenal system become dependent on it. Sounds like a good idea…

      Obviously this is just information I’ve gathered online, so do your own research and consult your own experts!

  63. AT says

    Any comment about the quality of the cheaper Solar Shields to the $80 ambers at blockbluelight? I’ve been wearing the Solar Shields and they seem to work.

  64. AJ says

    What color should the blues be when looking through blue light blocking glasses, when watching TV or looking at a blue sky? I have a couple of pairs of amber lens glasses, (“Eagle Eyes’, as seen on TV, and sunglasses by Serrengetti).

    With the “Eagle Eyes”, all the blues still appear to be blue. With the Serrengetti, some light blues are green, while most darker blues and sky are still some shade of blue. I heard somewhere on an interview with D. Hansler that the blues should be green when wearing these glasses.

    Anybody notice this with other manufacturers, and is this a good test for determining how good the blue blocking capabilities really are?

  65. says

    AJ: Blue items looks dark gray thru my red laser goggles.

    Laser goggles are overkill, in that they act like sunglasses.

    If I had to buy another pair of red googles, I would get laser pointer goggles

    Those would probably not filter out the light, like sunglasses do.

  66. Nik says

    Since last time I checked this thread f.lux (for PC) has been updated and now has 2 settings below 1900k/Candle and 1200k/Ember.. By choosing one of these settings are you still getting some of the high blue spectrum or have you eliminated it? Or in other words – will the setting 1200k be as effective as a pair of goggles?

  67. Astra Goddard says

    I work nights and am looking for anything that will help me get adequate sleep during the day. Would these be useful for me and if so what is the best way to use them: wear them while I am working at night or put them on when I leave work right before I go to sleep (during which time it is already light outside)? I guess I’m not sure if the body actually stores the melatonin until it is needed or if it needs to be produced immediately before/while it is being used.

    • says

      Hi Astra, I know this is a lot to consider, but please know that the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer warnings are well-established since 2007 that “shiftwork that involves circadian disruption is probably carcinogenic to humans” with significantly higher breast cancer rates. AMA came out with its own strong warnings in 2009 and 2012. I am angered that rarely do employers share this information with people who they hire to work the late shift. . . nor compensate them for it… nor offer any support training as to how minimize their risks. An extensive nurses research study was the first to prove the risks of circadian disruption… and it’s not even included in the nurses training curriculum. Perhaps OSHA can force employers to be honest with their employees who work the night shift. It’s no different than having an employee work with silica or asbestos without warning, training, and compensation. They are possibly worried about lawsuits (and they should be). Danish women have received financial compensation. If you can, please consider giving up the late shift. However, many people expose themselves to the same conditions voluntarily at home by sleeping with the TV and computers on… streetlights filtering in through moderately thin bedroom curtains… using white light night lights or bathroom lights at night. This is all so avoidable. It is so sad that needless, preventable harm is done to children and adults. Please speak up and share what you know. Demand that streetlights stop trespassing through your bedroom windows. We shouldn’t have to give up a night breeze through screened windows because we have to use black-out curtains instead.

    • says

      Hi Astra, I know this is a lot to consider, but please know that the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer warnings are well-established since 2007 that “shiftwork that involves circadian disruption is probably carcinogenic to humans” with significantly higher breast cancer rates. AMA came out with its own strong warnings in 2009 and 2012. I am angered that rarely do employers share this information with people who they hire to work the late shift. . . nor compensate them for it… nor offer any support training as to how minimize their risks. An extensive nurses research study was the first to prove the risks of circadian disruption… and it’s not even included in the nurses training curriculum. Perhaps OSHA can force employers to be honest with their employees who work the night shift. It’s no different than having an employee work with silica or asbestos without warning, training, and compensation. They are possibly worried about lawsuits (and they should be). Danish women have received financial compensation. If you can, please consider giving up the late shift. However, many people expose themselves to the same conditions voluntarily at home by sleeping with the TV and computers on… streetlights filtering in through moderately thin bedroom curtains… using white light night lights or bathroom lights at night. This is all so avoidable. It is so sad that needless, preventable harm is done to children and adults. Please speak up and share what you know. Demand that streetlights stop trespassing through your bedroom windows. We shouldn’t have to give up a night breeze through screened windows because we have to use black-out curtains instead. btw, the latest trend to switchover municipal lighting to bright white/ high blue spectrum streetlights. We should fight-like-hell to stop this. Blue-rich (bright white) light should be banned for outdoor use at night in the public way, because it is harmful to humans and the environment.

  68. Nishat Jamil says

    I have not used amber goggles but seems like a good idea to prevent the risks incured by melatonin suppression. I just saw an advert on aljazeera america of jindue goggles. …said to improve sleep, reduces under eye bags and wrinkles….but use acupuncture as basis of the technology. Do u think these too will protect us from blue light as uvex goggles do?

  69. Solomon says

    What about just lowering the brightness on the ipad/iphone? Wouldn’t that reduce the amount of blue light?

  70. Bernard Brooks says

    I have just bought a large digit blue LED alarm clock for my bedroom as I have trouble at night seeing the digits on my clock at night!

    Should I get rid of it?

  71. says

    I use the Solar Shield sunglasses mentioned in the article when I work on the computer at night. I have found them very effective in shutting out the blue light and allowing me to fall asleep in a reasonable time after I finish on the computer and go to bed. I recommend them. They are available on Amazon for around $17.00

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