Blue light is part of the visible spectrum of white light. Other visible lights include green light, yellow light, orange, and red light. These lights are distinguished based on wavelength and they help us perceive the world the way we do.
For example, blue light is part of why the sky appears blue to us. It scatters more easily than other light wavelengths when it hits clouds and water droplets in the air. As a result, more of the blue light makes its way to our retinas, and thus, we look up and see a blue sky.
Negative effects of blue light
As you can see, blue light is quite important for our vision and sight. However, not all sources give off the same kind of blue light, and some are more dangerous than others.
Blue light from mobile devices and computers is the most dangerous. Here are some of their adverse effects on health.
Some studies have linked blue light exposure to poorer sleep. According to scientists, the blue light we encounter from our phones and PCs right before bed can disrupt our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is our body’s natural sleep cycle, and it’s basically how we know when to go to sleep and when to wake up.
A disrupted circadian rhythm means that your internal clock becomes irregular, making it difficult to sleep and wake up at regular times. One study found that as little as 2 hours’ exposure to blue light can slow down our body’s reduction of melatonin – the sleep hormone.
Without melatonin, it’s almost impossible to fall asleep. This is why the longer you’re on your phone before bed, the harder it is to fall asleep. It’s also why checking your notifications when you can’t sleep makes it more difficult to get some shut-eye.
Increased risks of eye disease
Adults warn children about the dangers of staring directly into the sun. It can destroy the rods and cones in the eyes, and literally burn exposed tissues. Staring directly into any kind of bright light can also create a blind spot in the central vision.
However, we constantly expose ourselves to eye damage by staring at blue light sources. Digital eye strain is the most common effect of this exposure, and it affects up to 5 in every 10 computer users. Symptoms of digital eye strain include blurred vision, irritated eyes, and sometimes, headaches.
Even though it’s less dangerous than staring directly into the sun, prolonged exposure to blue light has its own adverse effects.
Negative effects in children
Prolonged exposure to digital screens has several effects on children. One of the major ones is the development of nearsightedness or myopia. It’s an eye condition where people have difficulty seeing objects that are far from them. In severe cases, objects as close as 6 feet become blurry.
Another effect of blue light on children is attention focusing issues. Some studies have found a direct correlation between screen time and reduced attention span in children. Finally, too much device screen time may also increase the rate of obesity.
These effects have been found in all kinds of devices, including handheld games, television screens, and phones. It’s important to remember that these screens can keep kids up, same as adults. As a result, it helps to cut off screen time up to 1 hour before bed.
Mental health risks
Some animal studies have linked nighttime exposure to blue light to increased depressive symptoms. Interestingly, daytime exposure seems to have had the opposite effect, with the animals showing symptoms of improved mood when exposed to the light during the day.
Blue light exposure isn’t all bad because it’s being used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. SAD is a disorder in which people experience depression at the same time each year. 20 minutes of blue light exposure has been shown to help the symptoms of SAD in affected individuals.
How to protect yourself from blue light
Our devices are now a permanent part of our lives, so getting rid of them is not an option. However, we can reduce our exposure to blue light to protect our health while also getting work done. Here are three simple things you can do.
Wear protective glasses
The most straightforward solution is to get sunglasses that also act as blue-blockers. The lens on these glasses filter, absorb and even reflect blue light. Stores like goodr (https://goodr.com/collections/blue-blockers) offer stylish blue-blocker glasses at an awesome price.
The good news with sunglasses like these is that you barely notice it. They only filter harmful blue light; enough visible light makes it to your retina that there are barely any color changes in your perception.
Blue blockers are excellent for people who spend long hours in front of a screen. They are also perfect for you if you have to work right before bed. They allow you to sneak in some screen time without messing up your sleep cycle
Plan your screen time
The most obvious solution is to plan your screen time and stay away from your devices long before your bedtime. As difficult as this may sound, it’s not impossible. You can download apps that make this task easier, like Sleep Time. The app lets you set a sleep time and stick to it. It also tracks your sleep duration and quality.
Another helpful way to plan your sleep time is to create an automatic shutdown time for your phone. Once you choose a bedtime, your phone will turn off automatically at the same time each night. This way, you can stay away from blue light and enjoy a beautiful night’s rest.
Use blue light filters
Blue light filters are just like blue-blocking sunglasses, except they are on your devices. There are helpful apps for both smartphones and PCs, and finding one shouldn’t be difficult. These apps even let you choose the intensity of the filter, and it goes from barely noticeable to basically red light.
Recent operating systems like Windows 10 and Android 8.0 upwards also have a default blue light filter. You can even create a start and stop time for convenience.