It’s 7pm in late October.
I have the window cracked and cool crisp air flows across my face.
I can smell the leaves, partially decayed and some just fallen off the tree.
Squirrels crunch through the underbrush and chatter up trees.
The sun is setting and creating a pink glow over my shoulder from the window behind me.
Since I’m still at my computer and will be for another hour, I rush over to the drawer to grab my blue light blocking glasses.
It’s Getting Dark
After Dark humans have only ever seen firelight or moonlight.
Think about all of human history. If you believe what you’ve been told in school, then for thousands, perhaps hundred of thousands of years, humans saw complete darkness at night.
Then someone found a fire breathing dragon and harnessed it to provide portable fire.
Portable fire was used to light up the night.
Industrious people (we’ll call them bored) began working late into the night creating works of fiction, soap, whatever someone would pay them for. They were able to work later than most because fire was expensive to use after dark and most people reserved it for emergencies or festivals.
Along came Thomas Edison who toiled endlessly, rarely sleeping. In fact, one story tells us that we would take tiny cat naps sitting up in a chair to increase his creativity…because he wasn’t sleeping much if at all at night. He would keep metal balls in his hand as he closed his eyes in his chair so when we fell asleep they would hit the ground and wake him up. Sounds a but crazy to me.
Anyway, the electric light was invented. Tesla won the war for AC electricity and entire cities were electrified.
Humans began lighting up the night and their homes. This didn’t occur in the majority of homes until the 1920s-1930s and took off in the 1950s to nearly all homes.
Think about that, it’s only been some 60 years, a drop in the bucket of human history, that we have had artificial light after dark.
I’d argue we’re pretty well adapted to fire light at night by now.
We were never designed to see artificial, alien light from LEDs and CFLs.
Why Do Artificial Lights Harm Us?
Human biology is finicky.
It’s been designed to utilize LIGHT as information.
The sun gives off invisible light that reaches the Earth. Infrared, Ultraviolet, Radio waves.. all these are light from the sun in the invisible range.
Based on theories of quantum physics, biology, and physics the human body uses invisible light for many biological processes. For example, invisible UVB radiation or light from the sun creates Vitamin D in the body.
Infrared from the sun, also invisible, can increase collagen in the skin, reduce inflammation and more.
In the same way, visible light is also used as critical information from the sun.
The body has receptors that “read” the light from our environment.
Melanopsin and neuropsin are contained in the eye and skin and read respectively, blue light and UV light levels.
When blue light is present, as it would only be during the daytime (there is no natural blue light at night), then the body is told to make cortisol and keep us awake and alert because it’s daytime.
The body also reads the UV light to tell our cells the time of day and time of year.
Remember blue light from the sun and UV light change throughout the day and throughout the year.
So when we turn on artificial lights at night, we completely confuse the body.
Artificial lights like CFL and LEDs contain large spikes of blue light.
After dark, this blue light floods they eye and tells the body it’s daytime.
This is bad news.
We stop the production of nighttime hormones that help us heal and rejuvenate during the night. The main hormone that is stopped is called melatonin.
It’s thought that melatonin cleans up damaged mitochondria, thus helping us avoid cancer.
Incandescent lights have far less blue light in them than LED and CFL.
Even Incandescent can sometimes be too much, dropping our melatonin by up to 40%!
What Light is Best At Night?
If I’m being honest here, from everything I’ve studied to date combined with personal experience, no light at night is best.
Seriously, avoiding all artificial light and fire light at night, especially during the warm months is ideal.
There is no chance you will mess up your melatonin and trust me, you will get sleepy and go to bed at the time your body wants you to for optimal health.
Think about all those times you’ve been camping and how early you go to bed.
Seriously, try this a few times. Let the sun set. Relax with a loved one on the porch watching the last rays of sunshine. Then just observe how you feel, get a meditation in, snuggle, pet your dog, whatever. I’m willing to bet you feel great the next day and get amazing sleep.
The next best light at night is firelight.
We’ve experienced this light for probably thousands of years.
In winter, when we don’t’ get outside enough, the infrared from firelight makes up somewhat for what we don’t get from the sun.
Use candles, a fireplace, or what we do – oil lamps. It’s like being back in the old days. Everyone is so geeked out over the Renaissance Festival and Game of Thrones, well why not use lamps and start a trend in your neighborhood.
If you absolutely need some light at night, perhaps you want to read, or cook, or work, or play some games with friends, then we recommend red light.
Red light has been shown not to reduce melatonin release in the body. It still may slightly shift circadian rhythm, so it’s still not the ideal, but it’s the best choice of all artificial lights to use after dark.
For those of you that want to combine red light therapy with ability to see at night, we recommend using the Gembared lights (Discount code SLEEP) because they are the most affordable lights to use for healing therapy of red light and they can be used for light at night as well.