How Blue Light Exposure Is Harmful for Your Health (and What You Can Do to Protect Yourself)
In the current digital age, technology has become an extension of who we are and how we live our everyday lives. You don’t have to be a millenial to admit that you are addicted to screens. A 2016 Nielsen Company report revealed that the average American spends 10 hours a day consuming media on smartphones, tablets, and desktop devices.
Whether or not screen time is a required part of your workday, it’s important to know the side effects of hunching over your laptop or your phone for prolonged periods of time. Don’t learn these lessons the hard way. Read more about how the dangers of the “blue light” behind our digital devices - and ways that you can filter out that light for better vision and overall health.
What Is “Blue Light?”
Before we talk about artificial blue light, let’s talk about a natural form of blue light: the sun.
Scientists measure light rays on a spectrum that looks like the rainbow. Some rays are red, some are blue, some are yellow, etc. Suns are often depicted as yellow, but the light that emits from the sun is actually a white light. The sun’s white light is a combination of all of the colors on the light spectrum, including blue light rays and “invisible” ultraviolet rays.
Too much exposure to the sun can have a negative impact on our bodies. We can get sunburn from ultraviolet rays, and our eyes can suffer side effects as well. Overexposure to the blue light from the sun can lead to cell damage in your retina, which is responsible for communicating between your eye and your brain. That is why sunglasses (and sunscreen) are so important!
Blue Light and Digital Devices
Let’s come back to the light we view with our phones and computers. This light is a blue light that is created to imitate the sun. Blue light keeps us awake. When the sun goes down and that blue light isn’t there, our bodies start to prepare us to wind down and get a full night’s deep sleep.
That is, unless we are still consuming blue light after sundown. This is one of the main dangers that come with too much blue light exposure.
Side Effects of Blue Light
Poor Sleeping Habits
You just learned that blue light imitates the sunlight. When our bodies see that “sunlight” at all hours of the day and night, it is confused. Blue light tells our bodies that the sun is still up and the day is still in progress, and that it’s not time for sleeping just yet.
Studies show that when you are exposed to too much blue light, your body halts melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone and sleep aid that helps us gently transition into a deep sleep. If you’re up on your phone right before bed, it could take up to an extra two hours for your body to produce the melatonin necessary to go to sleep. We all know the difference between eight hours of sleep and six hours of sleep; those two hours can have a huge effect on how we feel the next day.
Poor sleeping habits don’t just make you tired the next day. Long-term sleep loss can result in the following health conditions:
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Dizziness and lack of coordination
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Memory losses
Digital Eye Strain
Limiting your screen time two hours before bed is a great start, but that doesn’t mean you should overindulge while the sun is out. Blue light is unique; it emits the highest wavelength energy of any light on the visible spectrum. That energy can be intense on our eyes if we are exposed to too much, even if it’s during the day.
Our eyes can only handle so much work during the day. Blue light can be exhausting. If you have ever had headaches, felt dizzy, or experienced blurriness after a long day staring at your screens, you’re not alone. You were experiencing “digital eye strain,” a growing concern among opthamologists. Digital eye strain can cause macular degeneration, which leads to permanent eye damage. After years of digital eye strain, you may start to experience vision loss and even blindness.
How to Prevent Side Effects of Blue Light
Humans have been exposed to blue light since the dawn of time, but mobile devices are just ramping up the amount that we are exposed to each and every day. Luckily, there are tricks to putting off the negative symptoms that may be brought on by blue light exposure.
Limit Screen Time
The easiest way to prevent the negative side effects of blue light exposure is to limit your screen time. Set limits for yourself, and find alternatives to looking at a screen. Invest in a notebook or physical books that you can use when your daily screen time is over. You may not feel as productive, but your improved sleep patterns will give you more energy throughout the day.
Set a timer for 20 minutes. Once the 20 minutes is over, give your eyes a break. Stare at something that is at least 20 feet away from you, for at least 20 seconds. This break will give your eyes time to reset.
Blue Light Filters.
There are products and softwares available that help you filter out blue light and protect your eyes.
For example, Felix Gray is an eyewear company that offers blue light filters in their glasses. Consumers can buy prescription, non-perscription, or reading glasses that filter blue light and reduce the risk of eye strain.
Another blue light filter that you can get straight on your computer screen is f.lux. F.lux is a software that allows your screen to adapt based on the time of day and the room that you are in. If you are up late at night on the computer, f.lux will reduce blue light exposure and make it easier for you to sleep after you log off.
Want To Learn More?
Blue light filters are just one of many quick hacks to living a more healthy and productive life. For regular tips and updates on how you can stay happy and healthy, subscribe to our newsletter.