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From the CFI Vault: When Red Lights Are A Good Thing

By Marcus | In Recovery | on March 22, 2012

On Tuesday, Ruth mentioned the below article I wrote back in June 2010. Since I know some people don’t bother clicking through to read all the links we throw up in a given post, I felt this was worth a reboot. Sleep is one of the necessary triumvirate for good recovery (proper food and mobility work being the other two), so it behooves us all to look at how we may improve our rest time.

Since we’ve embarked on the sleep challenge, I felt it relevant to cover a factor that may be holding some of you back from getting all the hours you possibly could. The very device you’re using to view this post, whether a laptop or an iPhone, emits blue light and that can be throwing off your internal clock. If you make a habit of watching TV in bed to fall asleep or browse the internet until you get drowsy, you may be making it that much more difficult to drift off into slumber. I became aware of my own poor habits after reading an article on Mark’s Daily Apple. After moving into my new apartment, I ensured that I would at least not have a television in my bedroom to avoid that potential pitfall. However I tend to spend time on my computer (for example, writing this post) until well close to my bedtime. As the article on MDA states:

Blue light regulates our secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Exposed to blue light, we limit the production of melatonin, and we stay alert and awake; in the absence of blue light, melatonin production ramps up, and we get sleepy.

So aside from the obvious improvement of limiting TV or computer viewing prior to sleep, what else can we do? Well one of the suggestions is that red light, such as that emitted by a campfire, may help promote melatonin production and encourage sleep. One of the readers on MDR went on a 30-day experiment where they lit their home by candles only after sundown and noted a marked improvement in their sleep quality in addition to falling asleep almost 3 hours earlier. While I wasn’t up for totally eliminating all lights in my home, I did try going by the light of candles alone for about 2 hours before bedtime. I did find it much easier to fall asleep and slept quite deeply. Take a look at the full tips in the article, experiment with them and see if your own sleep improves!

In the couple of years since I first read the article on MDA, I have been using the program f.lux on all my personal computers. As mentioned in the MDA post, this software sets its timer to your location’s sunrise/sunset and will alter your monitor’s colors accordingly. This will cause a shift toward redder light after sundown to make it easier on your eyes. After using the new setting, I adjusted to the change in color and appreciated how it wasn’t quite so harsh on my vision. I highly recommend giving the freeware a try. They also came out with a version for iPhones and iPads, so those addicted to their smartphone or tablet can give their eyes a break.


Attention any of you who has completed a Whole30 — we trainers would love to hear your feedback for upcoming features. Please send any of the trainers a couple paragraphs to say how W30 changed your behavior, your physique and other aspects of your life.


WOD 03.21.12

Skills Day

4 Comments to "From the CFI Vault: When Red Lights Are A Good Thing"

  • Amanda says:

    March 22, 2012 at 10:00 AM -

    Great article/post. Got any ideas on red light that is pet/child friendly? Beyond the “out of reach”?

    On a completely differnet note, ladies and gents who use the shower – I brought a bag of hotel shampoos, conditioners, body gels, and lotions for folks to use. Please feel free to dive in to them! They are for everyone to use, especially in those forgetful emergencies.

    1. Marcus says:

      March 22, 2012 at 7:14 PM -

      @Amanda — I’m assuming you mean something other than the open flame of a candle? For my living room, I purchased a very inexpensive red paper lantern from Cost Plus World Market along with the lamp element that goes inside. You’d want to supplement with something stronger to read by, but for general lighting it works fine.

  • Cristina says:

    March 22, 2012 at 11:38 AM -

    Hey Amanda, check out twilight turtle. I use one for my daughters room and it has, blue, green and red lights that also form an awesome sky view of different constellations on your ceiling.

  • ruth says:

    March 22, 2012 at 1:32 PM -

    Amanda, you can also try the Verilux light. It has a dimming feature that you can use. You can play with different bulbs in there for different effects, but we love it because it can be set to self dim to complete darkness over the course of a set time.

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