Can you live without using your smartphone or watching Netflix for a day? Probably not. In this day and age, many people spend many hours surfing the web, reading and answering emails, and watching emails on digital devices. But what if we told you these devices emit blue light that’s harmful to your eyes and health?
Blue light has one of the highest wavelengths on the visible color spectrum. As such, it easily pierces through natural eye filters. With prolonged exposure, blue light leads to eye and health issues.
Let’s see how this happens and what you can do to protect yourself from the effects of blue light. We’ll also see how blue light blocking glasses work.
Effects of Blue Light on your Health
Understanding light physics and how the eyes interact with high energy light helps you understand why too much blue light from digital screens is bad for your health.
Scientifically, light is visible electromagnetic waves. The different colors you see fall under the visible light spectrum – a portion of the electromagnetic radiation spectrum. Different wavelengths represent the different colors we know. For example, the longest wavelength represents red, and the shortest is violet. UV light’s wavelength is even shorter, so we cannot see it.
Longer wavelengths have lower energy and easy on the eyes. Blue light has a short wavelength, higher energy and can reach the retina. We need high energy light to aid in our sleep/wake cycle – the circadian rhythm. Blue light suppresses melatonin, helps improve your mood, cognitive function and memory.
Given the above effects of blue light on your sleep, it’s clear that watching a lot of TV and using your smart gadgets before you sleep will send your brain confusing signals. By suppressing melatonin, the body will be tricked into thinking you should be awake, making falling to sleep difficult.
Even worse, digital screen manufacturers are finding more efficient ways and technology to improve the quality of visuals. As a result, the short-wavelengths are getting enriched and becoming even more concentrated.
Effects of Blue Light on Your Eyes
- Eye Strain
Short wavelengths flicker more than wavelengths. The feedback caused glare, reduces contrast and causes the eye muscles to work extra hard to process images. This is why your eyes feel a little more relaxed when reading from paper than reading from a digital screen. On the other hand, prolonged exposure to the glare of a digital screen causes your eyes to feel tired, cause blurred vision and headaches.
Moreover, you will blink a little less when you use a smartphone, computer, and TV screens. This causes your eye to dry up. On average, you’ll blink between 3 and 8 times a minute when watching TV, reading, working on your computer, listening to a podcast or other activities needing intense focus. This is up to 60% less than the average blink rate.
Blinking is essential for lubricating the eyes and getting rid of debris. Unfortunately, the fact that you’ll blink less when using these digital devices means that you’ll experience more eye strain and related symptoms.
- Long-term eye damage
Welding goggles protect welders using cutting and welding. They are designed to protect the eyes from debris and sparks that fly when welding. Moreover, they also protect the eyes from intense UV light and optical radiation produced by bright light.
The same logic of eye damage applies to blue light. Blue light affects the macula (in the retina). The macula is an important part of image formation. Without this muscle, we can’t see. Doctors believe that prolonged exposure to blue light (from the use of digital gadgets) can damage the retina. They reference the increase in cases of macular degeneration as well as the fact that more and more people are developing it at a younger age.
Since the increased use of digital screens has increased in the recent past, it’s understandable why there isn’t too much research on it. But even though research is in its early stages, there’s sufficient evidence to suggest that overexposure to blue light causes eye damage, and there’s a need to take precaution.
Other potential effects of blue light
Aside from eye strain, headaches and disrupted sleep patterns, blue light has also been linked to:
- Heart disease
- Reduced libido
How to Reduce the Effects of Blue Light
- Use the 20-20-20 rule
This is an easy way to prevent eye strain by blue light from digital devices. Take regular breaks by following the 20-20-20 rule. After every 20 minutes, you stare at your screen, shift your gaze and focus at an object 20 ft. away for about 20 seconds. You can download app timers to help you with this.
- Don’t stare at digital screens before bed
When you stare at a digital screen before you go to sleep, you make it harder to fall asleep. And if you do, you’ll struggle to get quality sleep.
Try and stay away from technology an hour before your bedtime. This will reduce your exposure to blue light significantly. And if you opt to read a book during this time, you’ll feel even more relaxed.
If you must use your smartphone, computer or TV before bed, you should at least have blue light blocking glasses on.
- Use blue light blocking glasses
Blue light blocking glasses help to:
- Filter blue light. Overexposure to blue light causes headaches, eye strain and affects your sleep cycle. It can also contribute to permanent eye damage. Though blue light glasses are clear, they filter high energy wavelengths and reduce their effects on your health.
- Eliminate glare
- Better sleep
The first step to taking better care of yourself is having knowledge. You cannot escape blue light, but you can reduce your exposure to it and preserve your health and eyes. Look into the techniques we’ve mentioned above, including blue light glasses.