Blue light this, blue light that, but what is blue light really and why should we care? Blue light is both a natural and man-made phenomenon that fills our everyday lives without being obvious about it. Most of the time, we are not even aware that it is there making it seem like the whole talk and concern is mainly people kicking up a fuss about nothing. However, the reality is, blue light is a big deal and that it is everywhere and unavoidable.
Blue light is crafty and hides well. It is often even disguised as white light. We are exposed to blue light during the day thanks to the sun. Even if you are cooped up inside most of the day, blue light affects you too. It is also part of indoor lighting, especially when using LED’s. Then there is the light that comes from your screens whether it be from your computer, tablet, phone or television.
During the day, blue light is beneficial for a multitude of reasons and can help us go about our everyday life. It helps wake up our brain gets us active. Getting enough blue light exposure during the day can lead to quicker reaction times, better attention spans, higher levels of alertness and less sleepiness during the day. We should make a point to get as much exposure to natural blue light. This would also help support our circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock).
Although, when the sun sets and the lights get turned on, we should be more aware of our exposure to blue light if we want to have a good night’s sleep and wake up feeling like we have actually slept. Remember we mentioned LED’s as a source of blue light? Well, the little red or blue LED light that indicates whether your device is on or off or charging, also produces blue light, which in turn disrupts your sleep. Along with the hours spent with your digital devices before going to bed. Checking that last notification or making sure your alarm is set on your phone? Bad idea, that robs you of around two hours of functional sleep. That also includes going to sleep directly after finishing that last episode or stream.
The good effects of blue light:
- Helps with managing and uplifting moods. By getting sufficient blue light, it can also work to boost your mood. In fact, there is blue light therapy which is used to help treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons.
- It boosts the attention span and memory.
- Can lead to quicker reaction times as an added bonus to the boost in awareness.
The bad effects of blue light:
- Digital eye strain is the most common short-term effect of overexposure to blue light, causing headaches, blurred vision and eye fatigue.
- Longer term effects include retinal damage, age-related macular degeneration and reduced visual acuity – all pose a risk of significant sight loss.
- Disrupts your circadian rhythm. This means that your body’s internal clock won’t function properly which leads to a disruptive sleep cycle. Which in turn leads to an increase of health risks, loss of concentration, reduced memory, bad mood swings and more.
What can be done about blue light to reduce the risks?
- If you are unable to part way with your devices or it is just simply impractical for you to switch up your entire routine, there are amber tinted lenses that have been designed to block out blue light while you carry on like normal. SleepSpec has been scientifically designed to block out all blue light.
- If you wear glasses, speak to your optometrist about getting lenses that filter out blue light.
- For those concerned with the harmful effects of blue light on your eyes and increased ocular health issues, there are a multitude of supplements available that are meant to help. Just double check that the ingredients consist of Lutein and Zeaxanthin.
- Or you can alter your diet to be richer in nutrients that are eye-friendly, like eating more spinach and corn.
- There are various apps available for phones and tabs that install a blue light filter that you can set to kick in at times that you have set.
- Cut back on using digital devices before you go to bed. Try to avoid using them for about 2 hours before going to sleep.
- If you spend excessive amounts of time looking at your digital devices, remember the 20:20 rule. Every 20 minutes look at something far away for at least 20 seconds.
Overall, some blue light is healthy and beneficial, but overexposure can lead to long-term damage to your eyes and overall health.