- 7:00: trusty iPhone buzzes with the alarm, hit snooze
- 7:10: roll out of bed
- 7.11: check list of notifications that have been pinged to you overnight
- 7.20: breakfast while you check what half of Sydney is up to on Facebook
- 7.35: you hit Pandora on the phone whilst you shower
- 7.50: listen to your favourite podcast while walking, driving, bus / training it to work
- 8.30: at your workstation at the desktop
…sound familiar?! We use our technology a lot more than we realise sometimes, which isn’t bad in and of itself, however there are ways to leverage technology intelligently. Today we’re uncovering the little unknowns about our non-biological appendages and how you can work towards using them to your advantage, not detriment.
Did you know? Studies suggest that 60% of people spend more than 6 hours a day in front of a digital device.
It’s a slight backhanded compliment when a millenial techhead tells you that they collect the old school Nokia phones, as um ‘collectible antiques’.
In a few short years our hand held and work technology has moved from the pay-as-you-go bricklike phone, to cheaper and more accessible ipads, ipods, smart workstations and smarthomes. Access to fast moving technology is no longer for the senior executive, but is so affordable that the most junior intern is expected to respond to 6am emails.
Sometimes our work phones are a bit like a digital leash (been there), and other times a saviour when you realise you had one too many at Friday night drinks (thank goodness for Uber!). But how can access and exposure to our digital screens impact our skin?
Blue light rays
What is it
Blue light is literally what makes the sky blue, it is part of our human biology to access the light to help us regulate our sleep patterns (ie when we wake and go to sleep – this is known as our circadian rhythm). However, we can become a little overexposed to blue light, because we access artificial blue light in our digital devices – LED screens and lights, TV’s, laptop, computer and phone screens.
Blue light has been found to be a short, high energy wavelengths on the visible light spectrum. These are known as High Energy Visible wavelengths (HEV) which ‘flicker’ more often and more easily than longer, weaker wavelengths.
Any overexposure is most damaging in the evening because this is when it can disrupt our circadian rhythm the most. The circadian rhythm is the 24 hour biological clock our human bodies have been attuned to for thousands of years. It is the timer to which our human bodies are set based on the universal elements. For example, when the sun rises, it’s an indication for the human body to awaken. The hormone that stimulates our awakening is called cortisol. We need this cortisol spike in the morning to get us up and going.
When the sun sets and the moon appears, it is an indication it is time for slumber. At this stage, the cortisol should be at an all time low, enabling our sleep hormone to kick in, called melatonin. The circadian rhythm has been the MOST distorted in the past 30 years according to research because of the many tools, technologies and gadgets we are now so distracted with when it comes to preparing our bodies for sleep.
If we expose ourselves to the blue light in the evening, it is spiking our levels of cortisol as our bodies interpret the light as ‘it must be morning time, secrete cortisol because we need to get up and do things’. But at night, our production should be at an all time low, giving melatonin a chance to do it’s job and make us sleepy, and ready for bed.
So how does blue light actually impact you?
- Stress: Cortisol is known as the ‘stress hormone’ – which isn’t bad itself (it is literally the hormone that tells us to run from danger, it keeps us alive). But too much of a good thing can be bad. For those of us with bad skin or acne, we need to ameliorate our levels of stress because the cortisol hormone converts itself into testosterone which lives at the surface of our skin. When it hits the skin it converts into something called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT sends a signal to our sebaceous (oil) glands that tell it to ‘create more oil’. This is why an overproduction of oil can occur when we’re stressed, it’s the body’s feedback loop letting us know we need to prepare for a potentially harmful situation.
- Sleep: you will of course sleep. But the quality of your sleep will be significantly impacted when you are sleeping with elevated levels of cortisol according to Dr Michael Breus. You need high quality sleep to function at your optimum, thriving levels. According to Harvard researchers “In the past 50 years, there has been a decline in average sleep duration and quality, with adverse consequences on general health,”
Did you know that better quality sleep can equate to more weight loss? According to Dr Breus regular exercise not only helps us to sleep better, but sleep actually helps us to exercise better because we have more energy and the ability to heal is quicker.
- Overall health: Harvard researchers linked working the night shift and exposure to blue light at night to several types of cancer (breast, prostate) diabetes, heart disease, obesity and an increased risk for depression.
How to manage it
You will most definitely have a everything-will-fall-apart-if-I-don’t-book-this-Melbourne-flight-right-now situation and you most likely use these types of devices for a minimum of 6 hours a day. So here are a few nifty tricks you can use to help protect yourself and leverage technology intelligently.
- Blue light blocker lenses
If you’re a glasses or contact lense wearer, you can ask your optometrist if they have access to a new range of lenses that contain blue light blocker components. The lenses don’t physically look any different, but they do protect your eyes (like untinted sunglasses) from the blue light.
- Blue light blocker glasses
Back to the future baby – you might look like a dork (I was born with a face that makes dorks look sexy, so you have nothing to worry about) – will block out the impacts of the blue lights.
These are the glasses you can wear in the evening if you do need to get onto your phone, laptop or watch the latest My Kitchen Rules.
Creators of technology is so smart! Some whizzbang genius has come up with a way for our screens to naturally tone down its lighting in accordance with our own circadian rhythms – ie the lighting on your screens will darken as the sun sets. The tool you can download to have this impact is called I.flux.
- Lighting settings
The latest upgrades to phone operating systems now have an option in the settings to switch to ‘night time’ darkening the screen automatically for you – it’s like a pre-installed I.flux on your phone.
- Mood lighting baby
In the evening, why not start using natural evening light (hint, candles) and dimming the light switcher down to enjoy darker light settings. Houses lit up like Christmas trees is definitely not the goal, the darker, the better.
- Night tech detox
You already know what to do.
Is looking at the latest Insta post of someone’s homemade bone broth more of a priority than the quality of your health and skin? If it is, get a life coach (sorry). If it’s not, then switch off at least an hour before bed. And if you do, good on you, you’re taking control of your health. Here are a few things you can do to fill the time:
- Prepare your meals for tomorrow
- Talk to your partner
- Bump and grind (wink wink)
- Do something creative and hands on that will relax you – sewing, knitting, play music
- Read – fiction only, self development and business books are for the morning only and lunch (they are excitable)