If you are anything like me, and the other 90% of Americans who spend at least 2 hours a day on their phone, then chances are this article might be relevant to you in terms of paying attention to your blue light exposure.
But with that being said, let’s explore just what blue light is exactly and why there is so much hype around this seemingly malicious light form right now.
Fun fact! Blue light is actually everywhere and occurs naturally from the sun. As humans, we were built to handle exposure to a certain amount of blue light and it’s a very natural part of our existence. We even have a sort of built-in blue light filter in our eyes in the form of macular pigment.
The blue light from the sun actually helps to regulate our circadian rhythm and sleep and wake cycles. It can have an impact on your mood, which is why there are benefits to using sunlight lamps for those with seasonal affective disorder, and it naturally increases our alertness.
However, we are not built to handle the overflow of blue light that has now become a regular part of our daily routines as the result of backlit computer screens, phones, TVs, light bulbs, etc.
Chronic exposure to artificial blue light can be detrimental to our health and well-being predominantly through its effects on circadian rhythm. Most of us think of sleep when we hear this term but circadian rhythm controls more than just your sleep. Your circadian rhythm regulates dozens of bodily functions like hormone functioning, cellular health, blood sugar levels, and metabolism, amongst others.
A Harvard study looking at the effects of light exposure at night found that blue light was shown to suppress melatonin production twice as long as other longer, less powerful wavelengths. On top of this melatonin suppression has been linked with sleep disorders, increased risk of diabetes, obesity, and even some forms of cancer.
Chronic blue light exposure has also been linked to macular degeneration and extreme eye strain.
Kids are especially susceptible to the detrimental effects of chronic blue light exposure since their eyes are not fully developed. So limiting their exposure can be of great importance.
This isn’t meant to scare you but it is meant to open your eyes to the importance of supporting your circadian rhythm and how blue light can play into that.
So what exactly can you do?
First things first you can filter it out. Set up your phone, tablets, and laptop to use a blue light filter based on the time of day. Even better, try to avoid screens altogether at least two hours before bedtime. Try listening to soft music or an audiobook if you are someone who is used to reading or scrolling in bed as you try to fall asleep.
Secondly, you can try blue light filtering glasses in the evening and at night to help filter out the blue light in your surroundings. It’s definitely worth investing in a pair of these if you are someone who works or plays on a screen in the evening after the sun has naturally set.
Lastly, supporting your circadian rhythm naturally can be an indirect way to correct your relationship with blue light. Aim to get at least 15 minutes of direct sunlight upon waking and try to follow a consistent sleep schedule, getting to bed around the same time each night and waking around the same time each morning.
So is blue light evil? No, it’s a natural and necessary part of our lives. But can blue light be a threat? Absolutely, especially for young children and if exposure becomes chronic and or is too late in the evening.
I personally use a pair of blue light blocking glasses when my work keeps me on my computer past 7 pm or if I end up scrolling the web on my phone after dinner. Blue light blocking glasses can be extremely affordable and the small investment could prove to have large benefits on your wellbeing.