Clients of mine know that I'm big on getting sleep dialed in right. If you don't enter "high quality refresh mode" consistently, all the nutrition, supplementation, and exercise in the world isn't going to make much of an impact. After all, you can go longer without food (about 3 weeks) than you can without sleep (about 10-11 days) before dying. But, both a poor sleep schedule and lack of sleep are associated with shorter lifespans and a whole host of disease states. In this article, you'll learn about one of my favorite (and simplest) ways to start getting better sleep now: the app known as Iris.
Mo' Tech, Mo' Problems
Our eyes contain 2 types of photoreceptors: one set is used for seeing visual imagery around us. The other is used to sense light in a non-visual way, and sends signals to a portion of brain called the superchiasmatic nucleus which functions as the central circadian "clock" in the body. It literally functions as a clock, timing all of our biochemistry to synchronize and lineup (ideally) with a 24 hour rhythm. This happens through the regulation of circadian genes, and is an incredibly potent epigenetic modifier. Plain and simple, if you want good health, you want well regulated circadian genes. The list of diseases associated with altered circadian genetic expression is astounding, and includes metabolic syndrome, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, ADHD, heart disease, liver disease, Parkinson's, and especially important is chronic inflammation, an underlying component of most health conditions.
A certain set of these photoreceptors are specifically tuned to the blue spectrum of light. When our eyes are exposed to high amounts of blue light, it essentially acts as a reset button for the clock cycle. Hundreds of years ago, before we invented the lightbulb and other sources of artificial light, the sunrise was the time we'd receive the most amount of blue light. This is due to the scattering of light waves, or refraction, as the angle of the sun changes through the atmosphere.
Mo' Tech, Less Melatonin
Melatonin is one of the most important sleep hormones we naturally produce. In healthy humans, it is at its peak at night, and lowest in the morning. It has an inverse relationship with cortisol, the main mobilization and stress hormone of the body. So, at night, cortisol drops and melatonin rises. In the morning it should be the opposite.
In addition to triggering cellular recycling (autophagy) and promoting sleep Melatonin also:
But, what does blue light do? A whole lot it turns out. And, one of the biggest effects is that it suppresses the release of melatonin. Guess what contains high amounts of blue light? LED bulbs, computer/phone screens, and any other light source that looks white-ish.
What You Can Do
Insomniacs, listen up.
Proper sleep hygiene is crucial. I'll be writing more about different techniques and the rationale behind them in future follow up posts. But for now, lets start with the most obvious:
STOP BLUE LIGHT FROM SLAMMING INTO YOUR DARN EYEBALLS
"Will that really help?" "That seems too simple." "But I'm completely and hopelessly addicted to this dopamine hijacking candy crush game!"
- It will really help
- It's super simple
- With the right mitigation protocol you can still crack out on your screen (although probably you still shouldn't)
Fight Tech with Tech: Why Iris Is the Best App
Iris is an app that changes the color temperature on your screened devices. It works for Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, and iPhones. It pretty much solves all the problems that previous apps like f.lux had, and is so much more flexible and user friendly. I used for f.lux for years but was always annoyed about the lack of certain features. With Iris, you can adjust the color temperature from normal to zero blue light, and hit the variations in between. And, unlike f.flux, you can manually change your settings quickly and easily OR use an automatic day/night timer that will change your screen to red at night and leave it normal during the day. Since red is on the opposite end of the light spectrum of blue, screens without blue light tend to appear red.
Iris comes in 3 flavors. Mini, Mini Pro, and Iris. Mini is free, but it doesn't give you access to quite all the features that makes it worth it. Mini Pro costs $5, and is what I use. The full Iris version is perfect if you're a graphics geek, and while the feature set is super impressive, its overkill for most people.
Its probably the best 5 dollars I've spent in the past year.
If you're looking to increase your health without giving up your technology addiction (I'm sitting here writing this on computer, obviously) just go get Iris. I leave it on all the time for the most part unless I'm doing color sensitive design work. There's really no benefit to excess blue light (even during the day, you get plenty from natural sunlight.. anything more is unnecessary.)
After you start using it, you won't be able to go back. Seriously. After blocking blue light at night, its annoying and offensive to get a blast of it accidently. Most of us are acclimated to it, so we don't notice it. But, after blocking it for some time, you'll be amazed at how you notice even small amounts of it at night.
- Excess blue light is bad for you and disrupts sleep and other important processes in the body
- Iris is the best app for changing the light emission from your screens
- You'll be glad you got it
- Go get it here.
Caveat: Iris is a step in a larger process. It won't solve all of your problems, but it will definitely help. It's become a mainstay in my sleep regimen along with blue blocking glasses, blacking out my room, making sure I'm sleeping at the right temperature, regulating my food consumption at the correct times, and of course, optimizing my snuggles. I recommend starting here because its the easiest thing to implement and makes a huge difference.
Full disclosure: I am an affiliate of Iris, so I do get a small kickback when you buy it. I would recommend it anyway, but it's a nice service they provide for me. I became an affiliate because I back this software 100% and use it myself.