All you need to know about blue light and simple tips to protect your wellbeing
You’ve heard of “blue light” right? That light that keeps you up at night? But do you actually know what it is and its effect on your mind? It is a question that I get asked often, so allow me to shed some light on the topic (no pun intended)!
In order for us to get out and about to live our lives, Mother Nature had to find a mechanism to boost our alertness, elevate our mood, increase our reaction times and increase our feeling of wellbeing, so she gave us the blue light from the sun. Now then, what is blue light?
The light that travels from the sun comes in waves and 7 different colours (the visible part of the spectrum): violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. We see these colours, or any combination thereof, every time we look at an object. Every object, when exposed to light, either absorbs or reflects that light. Ever wonder why tomatoes are red and bananas are yellow? Each of these fruits have properties that absorb and reflect light to varying degrees, resulting in our experience of a multi-coloured universe. You can also see these colours when you look at a rainbow, since the water drops act like a prism to separate light into its different wavelengths.
Speaking of wavelengths, every colour radiated by the sun has a specific wavelength which varies in range, length and energy emission. Blue light has one of the shortest, higher-energy wavelengths, which explains why our minds are so susceptible to this part of the light spectrum. Our bodies are designed to use this energy-rich, blue light from the sun to stimulate our brains and regulate our circadian rhythms (our natural sleep and wake cycles).
Extended exposure to blue light however, can be seriously detrimental to our health. According to Harvard researchers, the harmful effects of prolonged exposure include disruption of our sleep-wake cycle, eyestrain syndromes, greater risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression and even certain types of cancer (breast and prostate primarily). One of the reasons why Mother Nature created the night-day cycle, was to shield us from continued exposure to blue light.
For hundreds of thousands of years, our biology has been operating in harmony with the rhythms of nature. Every time the sun sets, our bodies secret melatonin, a hormone which among other things, induces natural sleep. Ever since the introduction of artificial light in the late 1800’s, that cue provided by the sun has virtually gone. To make matters worse, the introduction of digital light sources (rich in blue light), has compounded the problem.
The really concerning fact is that light emanating from our digital devices has a much higher concentration of blue light than natural light because it is “short-wavelength-enriched”. The main artificial sources of this blue light include fluorescent and LED lighting, electronic devices, TVs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and fluorescent lighting.
As you can imagine, bathing our eyes in blue light during the course of the evening as we work on our computers, watch television or engage in social media, extends our exposure to these enriched high-energy waves. Blue light reaching our retina is interpreted by our minds as ‘it’s time for action’! Melatonin secretion comes to a halt and both adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormones) begin permeating our bloodstream to enable our mind-body system to remain active and in high-alert mode. Remember, all this happens at a time in the evening in which we should be actually giving our mind-body system the restoration it needs to optimise our performance the following day.
Had Elton John known this, he would have not had to guess “why they call it the blues”!
So, if you really want to be at the top of your game and achieve your ideal performance state and safeguard your health in the process, please consider the following recommendations:
Read a Print Book.-Backlight screens in tablets and some e-readers are essentially throwing light directly out into your eyes, so opt for a print book for your night-time reading. If you already own a digital version of your favourite book, buy a cheap used hard copy version to read in the evening.
Go Screen Free.- Try going screen free 2 hours before bedtime- it’s a game changer. Avoiding exposure to digital devices will help provide the right environmental cues to your body to start winding down and facilitate the process of obtaining restful sleep.
Play a musical instrument.-If you have been wanting to learn how to play a musical instrument, this is your chance! Most music teachers will tell you that practicing little and often is a sure-fire way to master an instrument, so why not spend 30 to 45 minutes in the evening fulfilling that long-held desire.
Consider blue-blocking technology.-If your technology dependence is off the charts or if you work a night shift, consider apps that filter the blue wavelength or wear blue-blocking glasses.
Use dim red lights for night lights. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm making it the preferred type of evening lighting since it does not suppress melatonin secretion. You might trigger memories of a past visit to that cabaret a while back, but your mind-body system will thank you for it!
Blue light is generated from the sun and artificially from computer screens, smartphones, tablets, televisions, and energy efficient lighting.
Blue light is more damaging to our eyes than Ultraviolet light, and Blue light also affects our vision, and our physiological health.
According to the American Optometric Association(AOA), children are more at risk from damaging sunlight because the lens on their eyes allows unfiltered light to reach the retina at the back of the eye.
How does Blue Light effect me?
Blue light is a cause gradual oxidation in the eye and over the course of a lifetime may result in macular degeneration.
Most of us acquire over 70% of light vision damage before 20 years of age because the lens of the eye has no protection, and both Ultraviolet light and Blue Light pass unfiltered through the lens.
CONSEQUENCES OF BLUE LIGHT EXPOSURE:
Direct consequences on the eye
SHORT TERM unfiltered Blue Light exposure produces the short term phenomenon of “veiled glare” which results in vision irritation (dry, burning, itchy eyes, fatigue and headaches).
MEDIUM TERM Blue light associated strain on the eye may contribute to either presbyopia or myopia.
LONG TERMBlue Light impact on the eye may include damage to the retina (specifically retinal pigment epithelium cells), and progressive degeneration of the macula, which is the leading cause of visual impairment (e.g. Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). This type of vision loss affects color perception, the ability to read, write, drive and other cognitive functions. In a fully affected form, this type of degeneration can lead to blindness. Age Related Macular Degeneration is a worldwide epidemic affecting an estimated 30 to 50 million people; this is equal to the number of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease and all cancers combined. AMD is misunderstood as a disease of the elderly, when in fact middle-aged individuals are at risk: For example, a 50-year-old American woman is four times more likely to be diagnosed with AMD than breast cancer before she reaches the age of 55.
Indirect consequences on Physiology
While naturally occurring Blue Light has been overlooked, of greater concern is the rise in the artificial sources of Blue Light.
The Harvard University Science Journallinks Blue Light to broader health issues. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in humans and is directly involved in regulating the circadian rhythm of the brain.
With Blue Light exposure from artificial light sources, the pineal gland produces less Melatonin and the normal sleep cycle is affected. Ineffective sleep is linked to workplace safety, learning and memory problems, and an overall increase in mortality.
The impact on circadian rhythm can result in a multitude of health concerns including attention and depression issues, cardiovascular performance (may lead to cardiometabolic consequences such as Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, organ function impact) and has been associated with an increased cancer risk and impaired immune system function.
It’s 2017. We all get in a lot of screen time. Maybe you’re a gaming warrior, battling the fiercest, most cunning creatures technology can create, or you’re a student or a professional who has to use your computer all the time. Or perhaps you’re just addicted to all things streaming...Netflix, Twitch, YouTube videos, or just keeping up with Reddit.
In any case, if you are looking at a computer screen or the screen of any other electronic device for any length of time, you are being exposed to blue light. This exposure is probably negatively affecting you in ways you didn’t even know existed, not only by disrupting your sleep, but by decreasing your productivity and potentially doing serious long term damage to your eyes and overall health.
A LITTLE LESSON IN PHYSICS
Light, as you may already know, is composed of electromagnetic particles that move in waves. These waves not only vary in their length and strength, they also emit energy, with the shorter waves emitting more energy than the longer ones.
Blue light has an extremely short wavelength of between 380 nm to 500 nm, with one ‘nm’ being a nanometer or a billionth of a meter. Although exposure to blue light has a dark side, it also has some benefits. When you are outside, you are naturally exposed to a lot of blue light. As sunlight comes through the atmosphere, the short blue light waves collide with the air molecules in the atmosphere causing them to scatter. This scattering of blue light is what makes the sky appear blue.
Your body actually uses these shorter blue wavelengths to regulate your circadian rhythm, which are your natural cycles of sleep and wakefulness. Exposure to blue light during the day from natural sources helps to keep you alert, boosts your mood, elevates your sense of well being and increases your reaction time.
But exposure to large amounts of blue light, especially the light coming from artificial sources, can overload your system and have negative effects. If you are like most people, you spend the largest part of your waking hours staring into your computer screen or other electronic device. And that’s not even counting the hours most people put in when they are not working! Not only is your computer screen exposing you to blue light, but blue light is also coming from your smartphone and electronic tablets, as well as your television and fluorescent and LED lighting.
THE DARK SIDE OF BLUE LIGHT
Ok, so now that you know you’re being exposed to too much blue light, let’s take a look at what all that exposure can actually do to you. Too much blue light has been implicated in the development of disrupted sleep, digital eyestrain, macular degeneration (damage to the cells in the center of your retina), an increased risk of depression, an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity and a greater risk of certain cancers.
So why is it that blue light can elevate your mood, keep you alert and increase your sense of well being one minute and at the same time disrupt your sleep and increase your risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes?
Researchers are not exactly sure why exposure to blue light, especially at night, seems to have such long term negative effects on human health. But these effects seem to be tied in with the nighttime production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep as well as your circadian rhythm.
BLUE LIGHT INSOMNIA
All that staring into your computer and other devices lowers your melatonin production at night and wreaks havoc with your sleep. But get this: once your sleep pattern gets out of whack, this can cause your body’s natural internal clock to shift. When this happens, you are not only going to have problems sleeping, the sensitive internal clocks that oversee the vital functions in many other of your bodily organs get disrupted as well.
Adequate, good quality sleep is absolutely essential for good health. Not only can poor sleep lead to a greater risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity, it can put your sex life into a downward spiral, make you more sensitive to pain, increase your risk of injury due to accidents, cause fuzzy thinking, impaired memory and sabotage your immune system.
FIVE CURES FOR THE BLUES
We are obviously not going to suddenly quit using your computer and all your other electronic devices, so what should we do? How can we sleep better, especially if we already have blue light insomnia?
1. GET SOME SUN
Get out in the sun during the day as much as you can. Research has shown that even five minutes of sun exposure on your face during the day can have significant positive effects on your mood. You will be more alert and getting out in the bright light during the day will help you sleep better at night.
2. BLOCK OUT THE BLUE
If you work at night or if you use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider getting a pair of glasses that block blue light or install an app on all your devices that is designed to filter out blue light. LPT: Most phones have a ‘night time’ option that turns blue light off on your screen.
3. TURN YOUR BEDROOM INTO A NO PHONE ZONE
Do not use your phone as an alarm clock, and do not charge your phone in your room. Find a new place for your phone to live at night like your kitchen or living room. It will deter you from scrolling through posts late into the night as well as first thing in the morning.
4. THEN TURN YOUR BEDROOM INTO A RED LIGHT DISTRICT
Red light has the least ability to negatively influence your circadian rhythm and depress your melatonin levels. If you must use a light at night, either by your bedside or as a nightlight, get one that has a red bulb.
5. REBOOT YOUR BRAIN
Consider trying Reboot, our sleep aid designed to combat blue light insomnia. Modern compounds are combined with lesser known roots and herbs to assist your body and brain to fall asleep more efficiently and recover more effectively after long bouts of screen time. You can check out the full ingredients and why we use them here.
Current understanding of the effects of blue light from digital device screens on your sight or your child's sight
What is Blue Light?
Sunlight is made up of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet light. When combined, it becomes the white light we see. Each of these has a different energy and wavelength. Rays on the red end have longer wavelengths and less energy. On the other end, blue rays have shorter wavelengths and more energy. Light that looks white can have a large blue component, which can expose the eye to a higher amount of wavelength from the blue end of the spectrum.
Where Are You Exposed to Blue Light?
The largest source of blue light is sunlight. In addition, there are many other sources:
CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs
Flat screen LED televisions
Computer monitors, smart phones, and tablet screens
Blue light exposure you receive from screens is small compared to the amount of exposure from the sun. And yet, there is concern over the long-term effects of screen exposure because of the close proximity of the screens and the length of time spent looking at them. According to a recent NEI-funded study, children’s eyes absorb more blue light than adults from digital device screens.
It boosts alertness, helps memory and cognitive function and elevates mood.
It regulates circadian rhythm – the body's natural wake and sleep cycle. Exposure to blue light during daytime hours helps maintain a healthful circadian rhythm. Too much exposure to blue light late at night (through smart phones, tablets, and computers) can disturb the wake and sleep cycle, leading to problems sleeping and daytime tiredness.
Not enough exposure to sunlight in children could affect the growth and development of the eyes and vision. Early studies show a deficiency in blue light exposure could contribute to the recent increase in myopia/nearsightedness.
Almost all visible blue light passes through the cornea and lens and reaches the retina. This light may affect vision and could prematurely age the eyes. Early research shows that too much exposure to blue light could lead to:
parts of the eye
Digital eyestrain:Blue light from computer screens and digital devices can decrease contrast leading todigital eyestrain. Fatigue, dry eyes, bad lighting, or how you sit in front of the computer can cause eyestrain. Symptoms of eyestrain include sore or irritated eyes and difficulty focusing.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Eyes from Blue Light?
If constant exposure to blue light from smart phones, tablets, and computer screens is an issue, there are a few ways to decrease exposure to blue light:
Screen time:Try to decrease the amount of time spent in front of these screens and/or take frequent breaks to give your eyes a rest.
Filters: Screen filters are available for smart phones, tablets, and computer screens. They decrease the amount of blue light given off from these devices that could reach the retina in our eyes.
Computer glasses: Computer glasses with yellow-tinted lenses that block blue light can help ease computer digital eye strain by increasing contrast.
Anti-reflective lenses: Anti-reflective lenses reduce glare and increase contrast and also block blue light from the sun and digital devices.
Intraocular lens (IOL):Aftercataractsurgery, the cloudy lens will be replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL). The lens naturally protects the eye from almost all ultraviolet light and some blue light. There are types of IOL that can protect the eye and retina from blue light.
Talk to an eye care professional about options about ways to protect your family and your eyes from blue light.
Light is a permanent fixture of our lives that comes from many artificial or natural sources. For 365 days in a year, light enables us to see, but it isn’t all good. Case in point,the detrimental effects of UV rayshave been extensively documented over the years. But what about visible light? The visible spectrum of light is the one that allows our eyes to form images.
In this spectrum, the high energy and short wavelength blue light forms about one-third of all visible light. We are naturally exposed to blue light by the sun during the day while at night, fluorescent lighting, smartphones, laptops and other gadgets prevail. Blue light has since become a major cause for concern with people wondering whether blue light can damage eyes.
Blue light undeniably has both positive and negative effects on our body. It’s the part of the light that best enables us to see with high visual acuity, boosts alertness and helps regulate our sleep cycle. However, blue light in excess can be very harmful to many parts of the eye and seriously affect future visual capacity. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the eye is quite good at blocking UV light, that’s not the case with blue light.
Virtually all blue light passes through the eye unhindered and reaches the retina. This makes sense because the eye isn’t designed to completely block part of the very light that enables you to see. But this lack of hindrance means that blue light will cause insidious, cumulative and possibly permanent damage to your eyes if you do nothing about it. So, can blue light damage eyes?Yes,and here’s how.
Blue Light Can Damage the Photosensitive Cells of the Eye
Excessive exposure to blue light has been shown to damage the photosensitive cells of the eyes that include rods and cones. Studies done on mice have proved that cumulative exposure to blue light can damage the photoreceptors of the eye. It also causes accumulation of fluid in the retina as well as rupture and leaking of tiny blood vessels in the photoreceptor level of the macula. The final result is changes that resemble those seen in macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss and it is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the macula. This is the most light-sensitive part that’s responsible for focusing central vision in the eye. In this case, you’re left with permanently blurred vision as the best case scenario and permanent blindness as the most likely result.
Blue Light Causes Eyestrain
The high energy blue light waves have been heavily implicated in digital eye strain or computer eye strain. These High Energy Visible (HEV) or ‘blue’ light waves tend to scatter more in the eye. This scattering or flickering happens due to the fact that blue light waves are shorter and have more energy than their longer, weaker counterparts. Due to the flickering, there is a glare which diminishes your visual acuity and clarity. Eventually, you experience significant eyestrain that may be accompanied by headaches and mental fatigue. Eyestrain caused by blue light is mainly experienced by people who are constantly looking at a computer screen or any other device that emits blue light.
Blue Light Can Cause Eye Cancer
Another major reason to be wary of blue light is that it has been implicated in the formation of intraocular (uveal) cancers. HEV light has been proved to significantly increase the rate of cell division which is associated with the development and growth of cancer. In some animal studies, blue light has caused the development of uveal cancer in animals which had no previous evidence of cancer. In other models, an existing uveal cancer drastically increased its rate of cell proliferation in response to blue light. Blue light can damage eyes to the extent that it has the potential to cause cancer. It’s therefore a good idea to limit your exposure to it as much as possible.
Those Vulnerable to Eye Damage by Blue Light
Children under 9 years old are very susceptible to damage of the photoreceptor cells by blue light. This is because they possess very little protective macular pigment in their eyes that reduce the amount of light reaching the retina. Consequently, not even a little blue light is filtered out hence extensive damage may be done if their eyes experience over-exposure to blue light. You should, therefore, restrict the use of computers, phones and other handheld devices, especially in dim lighting in order to protect their eyes.
A protective pigment in the eye is melanin, which is brown. The amount of melanin pigment in the eye determines the colour of the eyes. Less melanin means that the eyes are more vulnerable to damage by blue light. For this reason, those with blue eyes are more susceptible to cataracts or macular damage since they have the least amount of melanin in their eyes. Green eyes have a larger amount of melanin and are less susceptible. Hazel and brown eyes show the least susceptibility.
From the above, it’s evident that blue light can cause a great deal of harm to your eyesight. But don’t fret, there are a number of ways you can safeguard your eyesight by filtering out blue light. You can check out our screen protectors, protective glasses and other products here atOcushieldto quickly get some protection for your eyes.