If you are not on board with night shift, you should be! And no, I’m not referring to staying awake all night and bringing home penalty rates, quite the opposite actually. The new night shift feature on my iPhone and MacBook have been somewhat of a revelation for me over the past few weeks, here’s why.
Did you know that artificial light at night can inhibit your production of the hormone melatonin? And what’s more, did you know that melatonin is your greatest ally when it comes to having a restful sleep? Our most prolific sleep hormone is sometimes referred to as the hormone of darkness, which gives you some clue as to why it might be important. Throughout the day the melatonin level circulating through our bodies is relatively low, but during the evening our body begins to produce melatonin through a chain of chemical reactions as the sun goes down, with peak levels occurring around 2am. This coincides with a range of other physiological changes that occur in our bodies over a 24 hour period in line with our natural circadian rhythm.
In the early hours of the morning when first light is approaching there are a number of mechanisms that begin to fire up all systems to prepare us to face the new day. Our body temperature begins to increase, our cortisol levels rise, our heart rate and blood pressure increase and our metabolism starts to increase to ensure we are ready to produce the energy we need to function. At the same time our melatonin levels rapidly decrease allowing us to become alert.
When it comes to light, it is specifically the blue light in the visible light spectrum that has the biggest impact on keeping us awake and alert. The bad news is that many of our current energy efficient light bulbs today such as LED’s and fluorescent lights emit a much higher amount of blue light, as do our mobile devices and computer monitors. But now we have another tool to help counter the effects of blue light late at night.
By turning on your night shift mode and setting it to the warmest possible setting the device will limit the amount of blue light being emitted from the screen. You will notice the difference straight away as the softness of the light is a welcome relief for eyes that have already spent many hours on a screen during the day.
Getting the best possible sleep
When you combine this feature with other lifestyle habits you can ensure you are preparing yourself for the best possible restful and rejuvenating sleep. So here’s a few tips that you can use alone with activating night shift mode on your devices to ensure you get the best sleep you can:
Gradually reduce your exposure to light in the evening. Dimmer switches are great for this otherwise just gradually turn lights off around the house.
Avoid sitting under LED’s at night.
Limit your intake of food and drink two hours before bed.
Set a time when you will turn off all electronic devices before you go to bed. Ideally I’d recommend giving yourself 30 minutes to an hour device free before you crawl under the covers. (I’m still working on this habit myself as I sit here writing this post at 10pm at night ha).
Spend a few minutes doing deep breathing exercises before your head hits the pillow. Mindful breathing for even a few minutes does wonders for relaxing your body and mind.