What you should know about the Blue light from your digital devices
Struggling to unwind and fall asleep at night? The harmful blue light being omitted from the ever increasing amount of technology in your household may be to blame. Before we explain how blue light blocking glasses may be the solution to your insomnia, a brief explanation of blue light may be helpful.
The "electromagnetic spectrum" describes the entire range of light that exists. On that spectrum are gamma rays, ultraviolet (UV) rays, x-rays, visible light, infrared light, and radio waves. Visible light is what the eyes are most sensitive to.
Visible light is seen as the colours of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Blue light has the shortest wavelength of these colours, therefore produces the most energy.
Before the creation of artificial light, the sun was the primary source of blue light. As the sun set and the environment darkened, our bodies naturally began to relax and unwind. Tasks were done by fire or candle light before people retired to sleep relatively early on in the evening. Our bodies were in sync with the rising and falling of the sun. In our current age, blue light comes from the sun and other man made sources such as fluorescent and LED lighting, flat screen televisions, computers, smart phones and electronic notebooks.
Blue Light is everywhere. It ranges from 380 to 500mm. HEV light is what makes the sky look blue and our eyes are not great at blocking blue light.
There are some benefits to blue light. Have you ever turned the lights on to wake you up when you have an early start? This is because blue light boosts alertness and dissipates any residual grogginess. Blue light also boosts memory, cognitive function and mood. This is why sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) are encouraged to utilise light therapy during winter months.
A negative aspect of the blue light from computers and digital devices is that it overwhelms melatonin creation (the hormone that induces your sleep) which can disrupt sleep. The sun no longer dictates the daily routine and we can stay awake using man made light. Social media is highly addictive keeping you glued to your phone scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat and Twitter. This coupled by reduced melatonin due to harmful blue light means your natural Circadian rhythm (or body clock) may be impaired.
Remembering to take frequent breaks, preferably every 20 minutes.
Another drawback of blue light is that it can cause Digital Eyestrain Syndrome. Symptoms of this include blurry vision, difficulty focusing, dry and irritated eyes, neck pain, back pain and headaches. These symptoms obviously impact on the daily functioning of the sufferer.
Blue light unfortunately increases the risk of certain types of cancers, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression. If you believe that blue light may be impacting on your health, an obvious solution would be to limit your exposure to it. You could stop using all technology a few hours before you intend on going to sleep. The few hours without exposure to the blue light would give your body time to relax.
If you aren't able to limit your exposure and are constantly using your phone for texting, emailing and web browsing, try using cool blue light blocking glasses. Blue blockers protect prevent blue light from reaching the retina which will prevent eye strain. The anti blue glasses prevent light-induced melatonin suppression and allow for better sleep. Studies have shown that wearing blue light protection glasses prevented alerting effects and significantly improve sleep quality after 2 weeks' use.
So to recap, the ways to reduce blue light on a computer screen when you simply can't stop using include:
- Sit far enough back from computer
- Place your screen 4-5" below your eye level to aid in keeping your eyes moist
- Look at the position of your materials. Use a document holder to ensure material is above the keyboard and below the monitor
- Blink often. We do this naturally in other settings but when at a computer blinking occurs less so we need to force ourselves
- Adjust screen lighting. Your computer screen needs to be the brightest in a room it doesn't need to be on the brightest setting in a dark room
- Reduce glare. Keep your screen clean from dirt, grime, anything sticky. Dusting frequently will aid in glare reduction as will not sitting with a window towards your back. Consider changing your light bulb wattage to a lower one
- Take regular breaks. Doing this also aids in protecting your back, muscles and joints due to sitting in long periods. If all you can do is get up and stretch then do it
- Utilized special blue light blocking glasses. As discussed there are several types to choose from so get the best pair for your situation
- Most important as previously mentioned, should you start to experience headaches, discoloring of the eyes, neck pain, shoulder pain or anything that just doesn't "feel" right immediately stop what you're doing on contact your physician.
While this article describes blue light and ways to aid in protecting your eyes, always know your limits. Sitting that extra two hours to get that project completed and not caring for your health will have serious future consequences. Be smart in the things you do and use preventative measures and you should be able to have minimal discomfort and issues in your daily routine. .