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A tip about red light, blue light and sleep

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Chris Woollams

I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the worldwide Children with Cancer Conference a little while ago and there I heard a 30 minute speech from Dr. Russel Reiter on melatonin, commonly called the sleep hormone. Fortunately, I’m a biochemist and so could keep up with him, which was more than could be said for most of the oncologists. He was quite clear – a lack of melatonin (for example, in long-haul stewardesses and night shift workers) is linked to all manner of chronic illness and particularly to cancer. He was advocating and proving to the room with research and charts, that melatonin supplementation also attacks cancer cells and makes chemo drugs work better. Of course, the subsequent recommendations of CwC to use melatonin in all cases of child cancer treatments were rejected shortly afterwards by the UK powers that be. That’s the barmy, illogical world we live in.

Never mind stuff of that crucial importance. The bit I picked up on was about red light and blue light.

Basically, red light is natural light – sunshine and warmth. It soothes our brains. It’s the light that supported our evolution.

Blue light is false light – the light of TVs, computers and mobile phones. And it screws with our brains.

Reiter told us all how, even just by using a computer in the morning, our brains would be compromised later that same night time and melatonin production would be damaged. Using computers and reading stuff on mobile phones after dark are even worse. The contrast of darkness with blue light can be very damaging.

Now, here’s the tip. Apparently, my iPhone and this AppleMac which I am using right now to type these thoughts, both have a ‘Night time’ mode. Yup, you can switch the computer from blue light to red light. So I went to settings on all my ‘devices’, and set them to red light permanently. (Well more of a warm pinkish colour really!)

And guess what? The results have been staggering. Not only do I sleep better, but I have stopped squinting at my laptop, and my blurred right eye is not so blurred at all. I can’t remember the last time I used my glasses. I can now even read the letter from son Harry’s school – the one in the absurdly small writing.

I spend a lot of time on my computer or my phone reading and writing. I cannot tell you the enormous and significant difference this simple change has prompted. Yes, you can by special screens to put in front of your screen, but why pay if you can simply go to ‘settings’ and correct it all in seconds instead?

Go to: the dangers of poor sleep