Several of us in the Ottawa region (even those who already worked consistently at a computer) are now being subjected to even more blue light. Even kids are now exposed to larger amounts of blue light. School was once taught in person, but for some, will still be online this fall. Physical books are quickly being replaced by tablets. Playing with friends at the park is now playing games with friends online.
This article explores blue light, how much is too much, and how to help counter its effects.
WHAT IS BLUE LIGHT
From the sun, to sitting in our office, to watching TV, to reading an e-book, to sending a text, several every day actions exposes us to blue light. Blue light is a large portion (about ⅓) of the visible light spectrum. It has the shortest wavelength and the highest energy, vibrating within the 380-500 nanometer range.
WHEN ARE WE EXPOSED TO BLUE LIGHT?
Sunlight is actually our largest source of blue light. The following artificial sources add up though:
1. Light bulbs including CFL, LED and Fluorescents.
2. Digital screens including smart phones, LED TVs and computers.
BENEFITS OF BLUE LIGHT
Certain studies prove that blue light can be beneficial. This can make the subject regarding the potential harm of blue light a little more confusing because blue light is both bad for us and good for us.
Blue light can be good for our health because:
• 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.
The best analogy for understanding blue light is comparing it to caffeine. Caffeine is great in the morning (just like blue light). It wakes us up, energizing us, and helping us think, function, and solve problems. But too much caffeine is unhealthy, and too much at the end of the day can disrupt your sleep. That’s why we need to treat blue light like caffeine, a small amount early in the day is optimal.
Recent studies have also shown that not enough exposure to sunlight – or blue light from the sun – in children could affect contribute to the recent increase in myopia/nearsightedness.
ADVERSE EFFECTS OF BLUE LIGHT
As we just mentioned, exposure to blue light affects our circadian rhythms. In other words, blue light which helps regulate our sleep can interfere with your sleep in a negative manner.
Blue light can also negatively affect the eyes. As it passes through the cornea, to the retina, blue light can possibly age the eyes prematurely. In fact, age-related macular degeneration can be worsened by blue light.
HOW TO LIMIT YOUR BLUE LIGHT EXPOSURE
Prior to COVID-19, about 60% of Canadians were diagnosed with Digital Eye Strain. Current statistics aren’t available but trends throughout 2020 show that the amount of sufferers is increasing quickly. Fortunately, now that many restrictions are being lifted, we can go back to many in person activities We canto the gym again, rather than doing an online workout. We can meet with friends and family in person, rather than video calls with a screen. It’s important to start limiting our screen time again to help reduce digital eye strain.
Many people have had success with Blue Light Blockers. These are glasses that filter out much of the blue light you’re exposed to while working or watching TV. Changing the lighting in your TV room at night will also help. Smart bulbs make it easy to adjust to a dim red or deep yellow light. The red light is especially beneficial; it doesn’t just help filter the blue light; it also prevents your circadian rhythm from shifting.
If you can relate to the scenarios and eye strain discussed in this article, it’s wise to book a comprehensive eye exam. Your optometrist can help manage symptoms of digital eyestrain and give you tips to manage exposure to blue light for the whole family.