In a device-heavy society that emphasizes staying connected at all times, it can be difficult to turn it down a notch. When your mind is continuously connected to smartphones, tablets, etc., shutting down to go to sleep can be a challenge. But calming the mind isn’t the only thing that can keep you and your patients from sleeping.
Blue Light’s Effect on Sleep
Surveys have found that the average American spends nearly 11 hours a day viewing digital screens. The digital devices we use to keep in touch with society emit the short-wavelength light known as blue light, which has been proven to inhibit the circadian rhythm. A Harvard study(1) directly researched the effects of blue light on melatonin production by comparing it to green light. After a 6 ½ hour exposure, blue light suppressed melatonin for twice as long as green, disrupting the circadian rhythm by 3 hours as opposed to 1 ½.
Blue light also increases the secretion of cortisol, a hormone linked to wakefulness and stress, adding to sleep deprivation. These disruptions make it difficult to fall and stay asleep, making quality sleep nearly impossible. Whereas the sun is the most powerful source of blue light, the increased use of digital devices has consequently increased concern for the problems this light can cause.
Other Effects of Blue Light
Other than sleep quality, consistent exposure to blue light has been proven to cause oxidative stress that damages the retinal cells, eye strain and fatigue, and headaches. With the dramatic increase in device use and no sign of stopping, knowing how to curb the effects of blue light is important knowledge to have. Fortunately, a recent study shows that there’s a way to reduce the impact of blue light on sleep if reducing screen time is not an option or not enough.
An Unlikely Sleep Aid
A study published in June of 2017 proved that an increase in macular pigment, the body’s natural filter for blue light, can help mitigate its effect on circadian rhythm. The Macular Carotenoid Supplementation Improves Visual Performance, Sleep Quality, and Adverse Physical Symptoms in Those with High Screen Time Exposure(2) study observed participants’ macular pigment optical density (MPOD) and its correlation to several visual functions, common computer-related complaints, and sleep quality. The researchers found that the group supplementing with the dietary macular carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein and a synthetic form of zeaxanthin called meso-zeaxanthin saw significant improvements in the following as opposed to the placebo group:
- Sleep quality
- Headache frequency
- Eye strain and fatigue
- Contrast sensitivity
- Temporal vision
- Disability glare/photo-stress recovery
Blue light is constantly becoming more common, and so are the negative effects of this short-wavelength light. One of the biggest changes blue light can have on the body is disrupting sleep patterns. The authors of the study stress 2 major takeaways:
- “…MPOD is associated with several visual and physical benefits for those who view near-field screens for at least 6 h daily.”
- “…supplementation with [the macular carotenoids] led to significant improvements in each of the visual measures (including a significant increase in MPOD), a significant improvement in sleep quality, and a significant reduction in the frequency of headaches, eye strain, and eye fatigue.”
Increasing MPOD with Eye Health Nutraceuticals
Though this study used a combination of dietary and synthetic carotenoids, a press release cited the most recent Central Retinal Enrichment Supplementation Trials (CREST) (3), saying meso-zeaxanthin (synthetic) does not significantly affect MPOD or visual function. Moreover, other research has indicated that supplemental meso-zeaxanthin may end up competing with dietary zeaxanthin and lutein for absorption, keeping the antioxidants from reaching the macula. (4, 5, 6)
“The findings are important because they build on the available evidence that suggests there is no additional benefit of adding meso-zeaxanthin to eye health supplements.”
– Richard Roberts, PhD, Kemin Principal Manager, Technical Services
Ceci Snyder, Global Vision Product Manager, warns, “Eye health supplement formulators should ask if all ingredients used in their product formulations are supported by science for safety and effectiveness.” EyePromise’s macular health line of nutraceuticals is made with the highest-quality dietary zeaxanthin and lutein. With the greatest amounts of these potent antioxidants available, EyePromise nutraceuticals can improve visual function and even guarantee an increase in MPOD if taken compliantly.
Learn more about EyePromise’s line of scientifically-supported nutraceuticals here.
- Publications, Harvard Health. “Blue Light Has a Dark Side.” Harvard Health. Harvard University, 2 Sept. 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
- Stringham, James, Nicole Stringham, and Kevin O’Brien. “Macular Carotenoid Supplementation Improves Visual Performance, Sleep Quality, and Adverse Physical Symptoms in Those with High Screen Time Exposure.” Foods 6.7 (2017): 47. MDPI. Web. 6 June 2017.
- CREST Study not yet published.
- Thurnham D and Howard A (2013). Food Chem Toxicol. 59: 455-463.
- Thurnham DI, et. al. (2008) Br J Nutr. 100:1307-1314. 5.
- Meagher KA, et al. (2013) Br J Nutr. 110:289-300.
*Studies not sponsored or paid for by EyePromise.