I’ve read an article about the health risks due to too much exposure to blue light and it got me really curious. At first I saw it as a normal and natural occurrence and that I’m not greatly affected by it since most of the lights in our home are white LED bulbs, which are known for energy efficiency and being environment friendly. Upon doing more reading online, I realized how serious it is and how it greatly affects my mood and personality and wanted to share here what I’ve found out.
Before we move on to the health risks of blue light, let’s clarify first what blue light is and where in our daily lives we get in to contact with it.
The sun emits light and though most of us will say that we only see a “white light”, this light consists of different colors or also known as EM (electromagnetic) spectrum of visible light waves. Its colors are red, orange, yellow, green, violet, indigo and blue. These light waves bounce and get reflected by molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere and that’s why we see colors of leaves, sky, sea, rainbow etc. Blue light has the shorter wavelength of all colors and can only reach air molecules in the atmosphere and that’s why we often see a blue sky.
To give you more details, the EM light spectrum comprises of visible light and invisible radiation and the invisible radiation is popularly known as ultraviolet or UV, while the other colors that we mention belong to the visible light spectrum. In the middle of the invisible and visible is the blue light or sometimes called blue-violet light that also has the highest energy.
Benefits of Blue lights
Though we started mentioning the health risks of blue light, it’s not all negative with this humble color. In reality, we are all exposed to it because the sun is one of the sources of blue light. Our eyes have filters to protect us from blue light so our body can use it to differentiate daytime and night time. It greatly helps us regulate our sleep cycle. This is also the reason why our energy is higher during the day as opposed to night time where we can easily feel tired and sleepy.
Scientists discovered the value of blue light and how it can help through what is now known as Blue Light Therapy. It helps against fatigue and mental illness like depression, since blue light, through our eyes, can send signals to the brain to make us feel energetic and uplifted.
Our skin also absorbs blue light and it can activate light sensitive proteins that contain light-sensitive molecules which help increase our mitochondrial activity resulting to alertness.
When and Where Blue Light Becomes a Health Risk?
Aside from the sun, we get exposed to blue light through our LED light bulbs, smartphones, laptops, TVs, Tablets, etc. Any illuminated display gadget that we have uses blue light since it is energy efficient and a lot cheaper to produce.
The problem arises from our gadgets and TVs that are emitting a stronger blue light compared to what is available naturally.
Our eye’s cornea can block the other lower energy light from our gadgets (red, orange, green etc.) but sadly, since blue light has a higher energy, it goes through the cornea and straight to our retina that slowly deteriorates it. This may also result to macular degeneration, an eye disease that destroys the central part of the retina that impairs central vision.
If it became a habit of yours to read or watch videos on your smartphones or tablets in bed before going to sleep, you’ll notice that you’re not getting sleepy at all even though your body feels really tired. It is because blue light is tricking our brain as if it is still daytime; boosting our alertness.
Another reason is that blue light prevents the production of hormones called Melatonin. Melatonin is what our body produces that help us prepare for bed time and it results to poor quality of sleep. If it still doesn’t sound serious enough, studies found that Melatonin deprivation is also linked to many health conditions like cancer, diabetes, and depression.
A common sight nowadays are kids using and staring on their gadgets for almost the whole day and unfortunately, the younger the age is, the more their eyes are sensitive in absorbing blue light.
Prevention and Protection
We need to understand that we are all exposed to blue light and it’s getting harder and harder to go through the day without glancing at our smartphones or using our laptops, but the good thing is that there’re ways to minimize and protect ourselves from blue light.
Most smartphones now have a warmer light option or night time mode where you can personalize and schedule hours before you go to bed.
If you’re in an office, try the 20-20-20 where you rest your eyes every 20 minutes by staring in an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. You can also try an eyeglass that has UV protection or blue light filter as well.
Try adding warm LED lights bulbs in your home. Warmer light emits a lesser amount of blue light and you can turn it on during night to help you get that sleepy feeling too.
Last but not the least, try to avoid too much sun exposure especially when the sun is hot and bright. Though natural blue light from the sun has lesser side effects, it helps in reducing your blue light exposure.
Personally, I’ve tried minimizing my exposure to blue light. I’ve downloaded an app for my laptop where I can schedule warmer screen display when the sun is down. On my iPhone, I turned on the night shift option to automatically schedule warmer screen display. I’ve changed some white LED bulbs and used warmer LED lights instead and it all work wonders. I’m alert during the day and sleepy at night and I’ve slept deeper as compared to before.
Harvard Health Publishing
Very Well Health
American Academy of Ophthalmology