We are naturally exposed to blue light — a high-energy, short-wavelength form of light on the visible spectrum — via sunlight. But in recent years, it’s been getting more attention due to our increasingly higher levels of exposure from electronic devices and the potential impact on our eyes and overall health. Here are the key things you need to be aware of:
1. Sources of blue light
Our bodies are designed to be exposed to it via sunlight — it helps to make us feel more energetic and helps keep our circadian rhythm on track.
But modern life has caused us to get extra exposure every time we use a digital screen: smartphones, laptops, desktop computers, e-readers, and so on. Other artificial sources include fluorescent and LED lighting.
2. How it can affect you
Excessive exposure can damage cells sensitive to light in your retina. The type of damage done is a lot like what happens with macular degeneration. For this reason, many researchers are concerned that it could be increasing our risk of macular degeneration later in life.
Exposure to this form of light outside of regular daylight hours can interfere with sleep. For example, if you use a digital screen in the evening, it can reset your circadian rhythm such that you fall asleep later than you usually would. And if you’re unable to sleep in to make up for the later bedtime, you’ll end up short on valuable rest. Researchers are now starting to see that skimping on sleep can do much more than leave you feeling grumpy and tired the next day — it can also increase your risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
3. How to deal with it
Protect yourself from possible exposure-induced eyestrain by following the 20-20-20 rule: after every 20 minutes of screen use, look at something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
You can experiment with the use of eyeglasses that filter out this type of light.
Many electronic devices have customizable settings that allow you to cut down on your exposure. Dimming the screen brightness can also help. Most importantly, avoid the use of digital screens in the hours leading up to bedtime.
If possible, use red lights during the evening — these have significantly less impact on your circadian rhythms than LED or fluorescent ones.
Knowledge about blue light is power
Take charge of the health of your eyes (and body!) by knowing how and when you’re most likely to be exposed to artificial forms of this light, how it might be impacting you, and what to do about it. Also, if you have any questions or concerns about it, be sure to bring these up at your next appointment with your eye doctor so they can help you come up with a strategy to manage it effectively.