As we discussed in the last blog “Why Does Blue Light After Dark Ruin Our Sleep And Health” the human species are diurnal (active during the day) as opposed to nocturnal (active at night). Our physiology has evolved over our history to be governed by the sun (when it is visible (active and alert) and when it is not (sleep and repair)). During the day light hours we become active through the effects of sunlight suppressing the sleep hormone melatonin and creating a state of alertness. As the sun sets and darkness ensues melatonin is allowed to be released which causes us to become sleepy and fall into a deep sleep. Those of us who rise in the mornings, head off to work during the day and return home from work to fall asleep in natural darkness are somewhat adhering to our evolutionary circadian rhythms (body clock patterns/cycles). That is if they are embracing sunlight as the first thing their eyes see upon waking, they are working outside away from modern technology and going to sleep when it gets dark (or wearing blueblocker glasses after dark to shield the melatonin suppressing blue light from artificial sources).
A lot of the literature available to those who want to biohack their environment and get better sleep is overwhelmingly slanted towards the 96.8% of the population who work during the day and sleep during the night. Not much information is available to shift workers who work during the nights and sleep during the day. These people would include fire-fighters, construction workers, doctors and nurses, policemen, 24 hour call centre workers, sleep centre workers and the list goes on.
Working After Dark
There is nothing optimal about working during darkness for our health. We evolved to be active under the hours of light and inactive during darkness. We need the sun through our eyes and skin daily in order to have optimally functioning circadian rhythms and healthy mitochondria. However, people who work night shifts often do not have much choice and have to work these shifts to make a living and look after their families. Therefore it is paramount they get the correct information about how to biohack their circadian environment. We will start the advice from the moment they wake to the time they go to sleep.
A typical night shift worker may start work at around 18:00, or just as its getting dark. They should wake up a couple of hours before they start work and head outside. One of the first things they need to see upon waking is the sun, therefore they need to wake from their sleep and head outside and have their morning drink and sit, or stand, for about 20-30 minutes. This will allow for melatonin to be suppressed, making you feel awake and alert and ready to start their “day”.
Sunlight vs Artificial Light
Natural light from the sun come in a spectrum of colours, some are visible (the colours we see with our eyes) and others are invisible (ultra violet (UV) and infrared (IR)). Artificial light on the other hand does not have as broad a range of colours and in some cases even intensified across various light spectrums. No bueno for eye health or mitochondrial health.
Once the night shift worker heads to work they will be exposure to a plethora of artificial light. During ones waking hours we need to be exposed to light, ideally this would be the sun, but in most cases its artificial light. The problem with artificial light sources is they are intensified across the blue and green spectrums, meaning that overexposure to these frequencies of artificial light can damage our eyes. Therefore we need to wear light straw coloured blue blocker glasses whilst working in an artificially lit environment during the hours we are awake. These types of glasses reduce the amount of blue light that passes through your eyes by between 10-50% meaning we still get the benefits of the light during the hours we are awake to keep us alert. But they reduce the damaging effects of too much artificial blue light on our health.
Simulating Darkness In the Light
Once the night shift worker finishes their shift and heads home they need to biohack their environment to initiate quality sleep. When they return home the sun is starting to rise but for the shift worker this is their sleep time. Two hours before they plan to sleep they need to wear blueblocker glasses that have a red tint. These glasses have to block 100% of blue light and majority green light to 550nm allowing for melatonin to be produced and for us to feel sleepy by simulating darkness. However, we cannot wear these glasses while sleeping, it’s simply not practical. We need to simulate complete darkness in our sleeping environment. We can achieve this with an oversized silk black eye mask that has not gaps and allows no light to pass through it. Or we can install black out blinds in our bedrooms. Either way the positive effects of blue blocker glasses will be undone should we not be sleeping in complete darkness. Night shift workers need to ensure that their bedrooms are in complete darkness or their eyes covered by an eye mask prior to laying down to sleep. BLUblox Sleep+ lenses are the only tested lenses to block 100% of blue and green light from 400-550nm.
Unfortunately many night shift workers do not follow these simple protocols or have been misled through incorrect advice about how to biohack their circadian rhythms to align with their reversed sleep/wake cycles. This is why we are living through an epidemic of sleep disorders in night shift workers. This has lead to night shift workers being at greater risk of anxiety, insomnia, depression, heart disease and obesity.
Follow the simple protocol above if you are a night shift worker and biohack your way to a better sleep and reduce your risk of all of the mismatch diseases mentioned above.