Have you seen the documentary ‘Lights Out!’ that showed how colors of light triggered different things in the brain? I sometimes have insomnia or odd sleep patterns, so I found this interesting. It originally aired on the CBC show The Nature of Things, and be viewed online here (Canada only, sorry).
They did a study on night shift workers, with a focus on nurses and truck drivers. It was found out that as a group, compared to daytime workers, that the night-shift workers got the least amount of REM sleep. REM sleep has been found vital of clearing the brain of waste cells. The Netflix special also indicated a much higher rate of breast cancer in the night-shift nurses that were studied.
Background info: Every organ in the body produces waste, and all the other organs get rid of waste when you go to the bathroom. It has been recently discovered that the brain, however, does something different. It simulates a car wash when you fall into a deep sleep, and rinses the brain of waste matter. They believe that the lack of the carwash is causing Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. The waste does not get rinsed, and then forms plaque on the neural pathways. (source: tedtalk) Now we know the importance of sleep.
So back the colors of light. The color blue triggers the brain into thinking it is daylight, and tells the body to stop triggering REM sleep. Even being briefly exposed to blue light (5 minutes!) can stop this for a few hours. What does this mean? Even though the nurses and truck drivers slept, their brain does not enter REM sleep for as long as needed, if at all.
They put special glasses on the truck drivers to emit blue light to help keep them awake, which prevented more accidents. Then about an hour before their driving was over, they switched to red-orange glasses which tells the brain it is sunset, and starts to prepare for ‘evening’ hours, even though it may be 7am.
Here are some tips:
1) Avoid a cellphone or computer screen 1-2 hours before sleep.
2) Looking at the cellphone, or computer screen when you have insomnia may be the worst thing you can do. Lying in bed in total darkness will help keep your brain from losing REM sleep.
3) If you have to get up and look at a computer or cellphone, turn down the brightness, and download this app for Windows:
Astronomers use Red Screen to prevent losing their night vision. I use this at medium setting, and have my brightness turned all the way down.
For mac users, check this post for some apps: 10 Apps to help you tame your monitor at night
Good luck, and happy dreaming!