What is it about afternoons?
All morning, you were on fire with focus and energy. Work was getting done no problem— you were in the zone!
And then mid-afternoon hits and you can barely get yourself to focus. The end of the workday is still hours away, but all you seem to do is stare blankly at your desk, thinking maybe (just maybe!) your work will come to life and start completing itself.
I don’t know about you, but sadly that hasn’t yet happened for me. No matter how tired and unmotivated I get some afternoons, I still have to get my work done.
Most of your body’s processes (e.g., hormones, sleep, etc.) run in cycles known as “circadian rhythms.” After much frustration, I eventually realized that my issues with focus and energy were rooted in disrupted circadian rhythms.
I was having trouble focusing in the afternoons because my body was out of alignment with its natural cycles. Thankfully, I came across a tool to help realign my body’s rhythms and keep me focused and energized through the mid-afternoon blues.
We hear so much about how blue light is bad for us, but what about the other side of this discussion? This brings me to the tool I found, which is an app called “Blue Light Therapy”.
How Does Blue Light Therapy Work?
Blue light therapy uses artificial blue light to stimulate and energize your brain.
Blue light is a specific wavelength range of light, and it plays an integral role in controlling your body’s sleep cycle by regulating melatonin production.
When you’re exposed to blue light, your brain takes this as a signal to cut back on melatonin production, which helps you stay awake and alert throughout the day. Lack of blue light tells your brain it’s nearing bedtime, so it’s time to ramp up melatonin production to make you sleepy.
Our bodies evolved this way because, for millions of years, the only source of blue light in our lives was the sun. Nowadays, however, blue light is emitted from the screens of phones, TVs, and computers, as well as most sources of home and office lighting.
Too much blue light exposure at night is confusing to your body. It might be 11:30pm, long past time to sleep, but if you’re looking at your phone, your brain is getting clear signals that it’s daytime and time to stay awake.
Equally disrupting to your body’s circadian rhythms is not getting enough blue light during the day. This could be an issue for you if you spend most of your days inside or work during the low-sunlight days of winter, especially if you live far from the equator.
Your body’s cycles depend on a clear delineation between night and day— a line that technology has blurred, to the detriment of your health.
I know this from experience! Too much time spent working inside led to my not getting the blue light my body needed to know to stay awake. Thus, my troubles with staying focused and energized through the afternoon arose.
Of course, some of this was solved by getting out more often. Sunlight is by far the best blue light around! Sometimes, however, either the sun isn’t enough (due to it being dark and wintry) or I just don’t have time to get outside like I should.
Enter blue light therapy! When you and the sun can’t quite come together, technology provides an effective blue light alternative.
Artificial blue light stimulates your brain’s “awake” centers nearly as well as sunlight with no negative side effects.
The Benefits of Blue Light Therapy
Increases Energy, Focus, and Attention
First and foremost, healthy exposure to blue light during the day will energize your entire system!
Blue light therapy signals your brain to cut back on melatonin and increase production of cortisol, serotonin, and adrenaline, which will wake you up, increase and stabilize your energy levels, and leave you feeling focused, attentive, and alert.
Regulates Body Rhythms
A lack of healthy blue light exposure during the day is just as detrimental to your sleep as too much blue light exposure at night.
Consequently, using blue light therapy during the day will normalize and regulate your body’s rhythms, leading to more focus during the day, better sleep at night, and an overall healthier body.
When your body is clear on when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to be sleepy, your quality of sleep will skyrocket. You’ll fall asleep and stay asleep easily, and you’ll wake up refreshed and ready for the day.
One study demonstrated this clearly, when workers exposed to blue light-enriched lighting during the day slept better than workers exposed to normal fluorescent lighting.
A Mental Reset
While not a direct benefit, using blue light therapy in the afternoon gives you a perfect excuse to take a 15-minute break from work! This gives your brain and mind a chance to rest and reset before heading back into the fray.
Where Can I Find Blue Light Therapy?
It’s nearly 2017, so of course, there’s an app for that!
For each app, set the screen at the highest brightness level— this will send a strong signal to your brain to produce the energizing hormones you’re after. Use these apps in the morning, immediately after waking up, or anytime during the day when you feel you need a boost of energy.
Avoid using blue light therapy after dark and close to bedtime, as this can easily confuse your brain and body and throw your circadian rhythm out of whack.
While apps are certainly handy, blue light therapy is also available in the form of blue light boxes and blue light-enriched lighting.
A typical smartphone screen has a maximum illuminance level of around 1900 lux— certainly better than typical office or home lighting, which is usually between 50-500 lux.
Blue light boxes are much more powerful than smartphone apps. Blue light boxes typically output illuminance levels much closer to that of natural sunlight.
You can also buy blue light-enriched LED bulbs for your home.
If you consistently feel sluggish, unfocused, and unmotivated in the afternoon, it might be because you’re not getting the blue light your body and brain need.
Your brain is like a worker standing with one hand hovering over an “Energy and Focus” button. Your brain can push that button for you, it just needs the signal! That signal is blue light.
If you can’t get outside or the sun isn’t often out where you live, give your brain the signal it needs with artificial blue light.
Use a smartphone app, blue light box, or home-installed LED bulbs— whatever works for you. Blue light could be the key to realigning your body’s natural rhythms.