From remote meetings to movie streaming to video calls with family on the other side of the world, gadget use has become inextricably linked to our professional and personal lives.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center, the number of Americans who own a cellphone of some kind has ballooned to 97%, with 85% owning a smartphone. Along with a phone, three-quarters of U.S. adults now own a desktop or laptop computer, and about half own a tablet. With increased screen time comes increased exposure to blue light, and anything one is exposed to daily is worth learning more about.
What is blue light?
Blue light is a part of the visible light spectrum – in other words, what the human eye can see – and vibrates within the 380 to 500 nanometer (nm) range. About a third of all visible light is blue light, and natural sunlight is our biggest source of it. But we also get exposed to blue light from artificial sources like indoor lights and lamps, smartphones, LED TVs, laptops, and tablets.
How does blue light affect you?
Blue wavelengths are helpful during daylight hours because they elevate mood, boost alertness, and improve memory and brain function. While the blue light we receive from screens is small compared to the amount of exposure to the sun, there have been rising concerns about the long-term health effects of artificial blue light, particularly at night.
Since blue light regulates your body’s natural sleep and wake cycle, heightened evening exposure can prove disruptive. Research on artificial blue light safety published by Heliyon has found that delayed sleep onset can occur after evening screen exposure from devices with illuminances as low as 30 lux, as well as the suppression of melatonin production after just two hours of exposure to 460 nm of blue light in the evening. Three separate studies have also found decreased sleep duration in subjects exposed to blue light compared to other light colors. In mice, blue light exposure has also been associated with oxidative damage to the cornea or the clear window in front of the eyes.
How can you reduce exposure to blue light?
Given that a moderate amount of blue light exposure has beneficial effects during the day, the idea isn’t to avoid blue light altogether – in fact, that may be next to impossible – but to reduce excessive blue light exposure, particularly at night.
Before bed, you’ll want to turn off devices that emit light or cover light sources. You could swap out your digital clock for an analog one. Ideally, you want your room to be pitch black as well. If this isn’t possible, you can wear an eye mask. The Nidra Deep Rest Eye Mask can block light for a variety of face shapes while still allowing your eyes to flutter naturally.
If you spend a significant amount of time in front of a screen or under the sun, investing in protective eyewear may be a good idea. Costa del Mar’s polarized lenses showcase the wide range of lens colors and coatings designed to reduce strain on the eyes, depending on the activity you’re pursuing. For instance, their gray silver mirror lenses were designed to reduce glare and minimize fatigue. You can also consider their blue lenses for activities that involve harsh sun exposure, especially since we receive blue light from the sun.
Another way to lessen exposure is to install anti-blue light screen protectors on all your computers and mobile devices. Want a software-based solution? Our article on the ‘Yellow Screen of Death’ mentions changing the standard white light setting to a yellow tint to read something on a mobile device. This tint can keep your eyes safe from intense light and harmful rays.
At the end of the day (literally), an excellent way to ensure better rest is to stop using electronic devices thirty minutes before bed. At this time, you should already be winding down. That means no last-minute social media scrolling, so your eyes can prepare for a well-deserved good night’s sleep.