The Effects of Blue Light: It’s Impacting Your Health: Is Edison’s invention of the lightbulb the cause of all modern diseases? Prior to artificial light, human beings’ circadian rhythm was synched to that of nature, and our health came naturally. In the past 100 years, blue light has interfered with our natural rhythms and is triggering a cascade of health problems. Let us explore the many ways blue light is harming our health, and simple ways to mitigate the problem.
What Is Blue Light?
Blue light is a color in the visible light spectrum that can be seen by humans. It is a short wavelength, which means it emits a large amount of energy. Blue light is found in nature, most obviously coming from the sun, manifested in a blue sky! This natural blue light plays a crucial role in generating health; it regulates the body’s sleep cycles, keep us alert during the day, and influences a host of bodily functions like hormonal responses to hunger and satiety.
Blue light is also found artificially, in digital screens (phones, computers, tablets, televisions, gaming systems), as well as LED, fluorescent, and incandescent lighting.
Effects of Blue Light: Why Blue Light is Harmful?
Let’s get one thing straight: blue light isn’t always harmful! We experience blue light naturally during the day (daylight), and this light is actually very important to regulate hormones, our mood, and help to get a good night’s sleep. The problems arise when we experience blue light during unnatural times of the day.
The light spectrum that blue light provides signals the body that indeed, it is daylight– which triggers day-time hormones (like hunger and wakefulness). Your internal clock is called your circadian rhythm, and it is responsible for many functions and like hormonal triggers for hunger or tiredness.
When the body is working optimally, it is in tune with the planets light/ dark fluctuations. For example, we are alert in the day, and tired at night. Introducing artificial light during periods of natural darkness essentially tricks the body into behaving like it is daytime. This means activities like alertness and hunger, which translates to overeating, poor sleep, and a cascade of problems associated with these outcomes. Although alertness and hunger aren’t intrinsically bad, they can become harmful when experienced during the wrong time. Good health requires a balance between both polarities of alert and feeding with rest and digest.
The Worst Offenders
Unfortunately, energy-efficient light bulbs (like LEDs) emit the largest amounts of blue light. Furthermore, a study also suggests that a defect might even be letting through DNA damaging UV light. LEDs should be avoided at all costs, especially after sundown. Better blue lighting options include incandescent bulbs.
Another major problem is screens because we stare directly into them. This includes smartphones, tablets, televisions, and gaming systems. Thankfully, there are a few ways to mitigate the impact that these blue light-emitting screens have on ill-health.
Beat the Blue Light Blues
There are many ways you can reduce or prevent the damaging impact of blue light. Most obviously, limit your exposure to any artificial light after sundown. The sun setting is a natural cue for the body to start powering down, which can be difficult especially during the short days of winter months. These tips will help mitigate some of the damage caused by blue light.
The Effects of Blue Light: Opt for Fire
Candles, fireplace, even gas lanterns: they’re old school, but fire does not emit any blue light. Using fire instead of artificial light is the best way to see after sundown. The red, orange, and yellow light signals winter/ rest, which enables your body to still release sleep hormones so that your circadian rhythm stays in synch with nature. Although fire isn’t necessarily the safest option, used wisely it can definitely do the trick. Try swapping candles instead of bright lights during dinner time, if you eat late.
Red Light Filters on Your Screens
There are many different options for tinting the screen of your electronic devices with red instead of blue light. For computers, there are apps like Iris, that give you multiple levels of increasingly red-lit screen filters. Mobile phone screens can be tinted red by manipulating the settings. Note that although dimming the light is a great start, it does not actually remove any of the blue light.
Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Orange and/ or red-tinted glasses do a great job of limiting the amount of blue light that makes it into your retina. Popping blue light blocking glasses on after sundown can mitigate a large amount of stress that blue light puts on the body. Ideally, you still want to keep light exposure to a minimum (the skin has light receptors too!), but they are a great tool when you do expose yourself to artificial light after dark.
These orange or red glasses are becoming increasingly popular in the health realm. They help to mitigate the effects of blue light. These glasses are popping up in stores across the country. But, perhaps the easiest option is buying online. Some brands are being marketed as blue light blocking glasses, but the orange-tinted construction work glasses will do the trick too. Note that between orange and red, the red lenses are much more powerful at filtering the blue light.
Salt Lamps/ Red Light Bulbs
Using a salt lamp or a red-tinted light bulb is another great way to see after dark, without the harshness of conventional bulbs. These filters mellow the light spectrum and provide you with a warmer hue to light the space. You can find salt lamps at most health stores or online. Red light bulbs are found at home improvement stores or online as well.
The Effects of Blue Light: Get Real Day Light
Blue light is more natural during the day time. However, the reality is that the natural blue light we get exposed to comes with a host of other spectrums of light and factors (like fresh air). Being at a screen isn’t as bad during the day as it is during the night time. However, it doesn’t equate the kind of exposure humans would normally get while spending a day outside. If you are spending a large portion of your day indoors, make sure you are taking regular breaks to see natural light as well. Especially if you are staring into a screen for hours at a time!