The topic of blue light from electronics has been trending and it’s time we dive into its facts and myths! In this article, we’re going to cover blue light basics, how it affects your health, and what you can do to protect yourself.
What is blue light?
Did you know that about one-third of all visible light is considered blue light (1)?
You may be surprised to learn that sunlight is the main source of blue light and being outdoors during daylight is where we get most of our exposure to it! Other significant sources of blue light include LED lighting and electronic devices such as computers, tablets, and smartphones (2).
Exposure to natural blue light (i.e. the sun!) is important for wellbeing, alertness, and cognitive performance, but constant, long-term exposure from electronics is cause for concern.
Blue Light & Your Health
We currently live in a society where electronic devices are deeply embedded into our daily lives. The typical American family has 5 or more electronic devices at home and is additionally exposed at work and school (3).
While the amount of blue light these devices emit is only a fraction of that in sunlight, the concern is in the amount of time people spend using these devices and the proximity of these screens to the user’s face (4).
Surprisingly, there is minimal evidence connecting blue light exposure from electronics to eye disease. However, it has been shown that cumulative long-term exposure may be responsible for damage to the retina and age-related macular degeneration (5). Children are more vulnerable than adults because their eyes absorb more blue light from digital devices.
Blue light has also been shown to have serious implications on sleep quality, both suppressing the production of melatonin and disrupting circadian rhythms, our natural wake and sleep cycle (6). During the day, blue light wakes us up and stimulates us. But too much blue light exposure late at night from your phone, tablet, or computer can make it harder to get to sleep (7).
What can you do to protect yourself?
While blue-light-blocking glasses are being marketed with claims that they can alleviate eyestrain and discomfort and improve sleep quality, particularly when using computers and other digital devices, there is currently no scientific or high-quality clinical trial evidence to support these claims (8).
Overall, the most effective protection against blue light from electronics requires limiting the use of these devices, especially for children.
At a minimum, protect yourself at night by avoiding these screens two to three hours before bed. Choose to read a book instead of your phone and use dim red lights for night lights as red light is less likely to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin. (9). If you cannot completely avoid your devices at night, utilize nighttime settings on your electronics to minimize blue light exposure in the evenings (10).
Lastly, expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day! This will boost your ability to sleep at night, as well as your mood and alertness during daylight!
We know electronics are a vital part of everyday life and they’re not going anywhere, anytime soon. With that, research is still new as to the effects of blue light on our health so it’s very possible there may be long-term side effects on the health of our eyes and bodies we’ve yet to discover (11). Do your best to remain mindful of screen time, while ensuring you spend time in nature for sunlight, fresh air, and to support your overall health and wellness!
1, 2, 4, 11. Gary Heiting, OD. “How Blue Light Is Both Bad for You and Good for You! (Huh?).” All About Vision, All About Vision, 21 Jan. 2022, https://www.allaboutvision.com/cvs/blue-light.htm.
3. “Short Reads.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 23 Feb. 2022, http://www.pewresearch.org/facttank/2017/05/25/a-third-of-americans-live-in-a-household -with-three-or-more-smartphones/.
5. Rosenfield, M., Li, R. T., & Kirsch, N. T. (2020). A double-blind test of blue-blocking filters on symptoms of digital eye strain. Work, 65(2), 343–348. doi:10.3233/wor-203086
6, 9. David Ramsey, MD. “Will Blue Light from Electronic Devices Increase My Risk of Macular Degeneration and Blindness?” Harvard Health, 1 May 2019, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/will-blue-light-from-electronic-devices-increase-my-risk-of-macular-degeneration-and-blindness-2019040816365.
7, 10. “Should You Be Worried about Blue Light?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 10 Mar. 2021, https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/should-you-be-worried-about-blue-light.
8. Lawrenson, J. G., Hull, C. C., & Downie, L. E. (2017). The effect of blue-light blocking spectacle lenses on visual performance, macular health and the sleep-wake cycle: a systematic review of the literature. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 37(6), 644–654. doi:10.1111/opo.12406
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