“In a sense, with all our gadgets, we are all night shift workers to a degree now.” ~ David Blask, MD, associate director of the Tulane University Center for Circadian Biology.
We are “darkness deprived.” ~ Richard Stevens, PhD, University of Connecticut cancer epidemiologist and light-and-night researcher.
(Source: “Too Blue: Can Blue Light at Night Harm Your Health?” WebMD, May 2018)
At the end of 2017, Harvard’s Health Letter included intel on the growing concern about the health-corroding effects of LED lights and all of those blue-light-emitting tech gadget screens that are so prolific in our modern culture.
WebMD‘s May 2018 magazine reported on the same growing health concern, based on the emerging research on the health effects of the growing sea of “blue light.”
The good news is that research-grounded awareness is growing, and we can actually do something about this one, if we haven’t already started.
Read on …
Modern science and tech has produced its benefits and upsides — we’re using one of them right now to be in a tech-facilitated conversation on this topic regardless of where we are in the world or what time we might be writing or reading or commenting.
Among other things, we celebrate the connections we’ve made with kindred spirits around the Earth, whom we might never have known without the internet.
We’re also aware that there’s a significant downside, too, supported consistently at this point by research.
Early adopters who have some self-awareness noticed it early on.
In 2010, in my Priestess in Blue Jeans blog, I wrote about the observations and research that Nicholas Carr shared way back in 2008 in “Is Google Making Us Stupid: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains” (Atlantic Monthly) and in 2010 his resulting book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.
Of course, in the full throes of the emerging social media wave, we didn’t really take heed, as a culture.We — generally speaking — just sort of ignored it. Cognitive dissonance much?
Some of us may have stepped it back, as individuals — like Nicholas Carr, me, perhaps you, and even Silicon Valley execs who raised their own kids tech-free, probably because they were and are well aware of the downside effects of too much or too early.
Now there’s yet another wave of credible intel from the researchers — and of the sort we can actually notice, or have already noticed, in day to day life as well, if we’re paying attention to how we feel and our own sense of harmony or dissonance, wellbeing or not so much.
“The more research we do, the more evidence we have that excess artificial light at night can have a profound, deleterious effect on many aspects of human health,” said Charles Czeisler, Phd, MD, and chief of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, in the WebMD interview.
It turns out that the blue-light frequency appears to disrupt the Circadian rhythms, which disrupts our sleep and R.E.M. dream cycles, which cascades into a whole lot of other ill-effects.
The effects or potential effects that are concerning the researchers include:
- insomnia and sleep deprivation,
- possible links to diabetes, obesity, depression,
- feelings of anxiety,
- decreased attention span and alertness during the day,
… and, unfortunately, more. Have a look at the links and articles, or just do a web search — you’ll see more.
These particular researchers wouldn’t be consistently sounding the alarm if there wasn’t that level of concern, but we’ve all been noticing this stuff anyway.
And this latest wave of shadow-side research just builds on the waves before it, as Nicholas Carr’s work covered so thoroughly and well, all saying … “Hey, there are some very serious and concerning health and wellbeing effects here to overdosing on tech; moderation is a healthy policy.”
What to do, what to do? Let There Be Dark …
It turns out, Nature — or the Divine, if you’re so inclined — knew (and knows, when it’s unmolested and not overly man-handled) exactly what’s healthiest.
Natural or Circadian rhythms … light during the day to awaken and stimulate mind and body, more darkness at night to calm, soothe, and rejuvenate the mind and body.
Getting to know the restorative deliciousness of night-time darkness, and going with more natural, gentle, or full spectrum lighting at night before bedtime — and reducing the blue-screen tech and tron time after dark.
Here are some things a few of us — tech-appreciative types, I mean — have been doing for quite a few years now:
- enjoying the tech (particularly during the day) and taking non-tech downtime (breaks, and in the evening after dark),
- turning off the devices when we’re not using them,
- keeping the damn SmartPhones and Big Screens and e-Readers out of the bedroom, and certainly not in or too near the bed,
- allow some non-tech, non-blue-screen time before you go to bed,
- look for natural spectrum lightbulbs … I’ve found them harder to find with the proliferation of “everything LED all the time” lighting trend, but they make a huge difference (these were also cited as a help with Seasonal Affective Disorder during dark, dark Winters),
- spend some time in Nature or out meeting with actual people … without the tech (at least later in the evenings, once the actual natural light — the Sun — has set),
- check out the pleasures of old-fashioned physical, paper book reading, or old-fashioned pen-to-paper journaling, or enjoyable conversations with kindreds.
A revelation, I know. Duh, right? You can probably add your own.
I know I have a whole list, after real-life experiential research and experimentation in stepping back from the tech a bit, simplifying, culling the best of both worlds, with an eye and intention on wellbeing and wellness after a health crisis and period of chronic unwellness (not to mention real-deal Life-Undoing and Underworld Journey).
We can discern the best of the modern and remember and reclaim the wisdom of our ancestral ways — that really might be the healthiest, and most satisfying and meaningful, combination after all.
What differences have you noticed?
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Lots of love,
May 11, 2018 at 7:06 pm
This is well said. I always take note of the fact that plants will actually die under blue light.
May 12, 2018 at 8:01 pm
That’s wild that your plants die under the blue light! Quite an observation (and not encouraging about the effects on we non-plant beings).
May 12, 2018 at 2:21 am
Thanks, Jamie. As always—thoughtful and important reminders. I’m turning my phone off now. Good night:)
May 12, 2018 at 8:00 pm
🙂 Sounds like a good plan, Cheryl! I do the same.