5 Ways Blue Light Is Affecting Your Health
Good eye health is something that many of us take for granted, particularly in a time of such advanced medical treatments. The growing incidence of blue light related health issues is increasing more and more as the number of blue light sources grow – but what is blue light and where does it come from?
Blue light is a part of the visible light spectrum and due to its short wavelength, can reach deeper into the eye than other visible light waves, causing harm to the retina and affecting our overall wellbeing. Sunlight was once considered to be the primary source of blue light, but due to innovation in technology now your phone, computer, TV, tablet and fluorescent lighting are all sources too, creating a massive increase in exposure to blue light and consequently a rise in blue light related health issues.
- Eye health
On average Australians spend 9.5 hours in front of a screen per day. One side effect of our digital lifestyles is the increased risk of eye damage and eye strain that can come from exposure to blue light sources. Blue light can penetrate through to the retina and the macular at the back of the eye causing eye fatigue, headaches and even permanent eye damage. To cope with blue light our eyes use carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin to create a natural barrier to this blue light by helping filter out the harmful rays. As lutein and zeaxanthin are not produced by the body, it is up to us to ensure that we are consuming the right foods or taking supplements that provide our eyes with the right protection.
While it may seem like a good idea to relax in front of the TV before bed or play mindlessly on your phone, studies have shown that rather than helping you wind down, the extra exposure to blue light can affect the body’s circadian rhythm and the body’s ability to produce melatonin, the natural hormone that regulates our sleep patterns. This can cause restlessness and difficulty falling asleep.
- Mood & Mental Health
Often our physical and mental health is linked with our quality of sleep, so when late night doses of blue light are affecting our circadian rhythms, our moods can also be affected. Studies have shown that an overexposure to blue light and a lack of exposure to natural sunlight have been linked to some forms of depression. Blue light’s interference with our natural circadian rhythm can affect our mood and mental wellbeing due to heightened stress levels, increased blood pressure and impaired judgement throughout the day.
Blue light affects many of our body’s physiological process like sleeping, eating, cell regeneration and hormone production. As a result of exposure to blue light around bed time, our melatonin production is suppressed, our alertness increases and in response our hunger hormones can be stimulated, so instead of our bodies preparing for sleep we develop a late-night hunger which encourages us to consume high calorie foods to fuel our bodies which consequently changes our eating habits and affects our metabolic rates.
- Stress & Anxiety
A combination of overexposure to blue light and lack of sleep are big contributors to the growing incidence of stress and anxiety amongst office workers. In addition to suppressing melatonin, blue light can also suppress the production of cortisol, the hormone associated with our “fight or flight” response to stressful situations. The suppression of cortisol makes us less capable to cope with daily stressors and can create anxiety build up throughout the day.
What can you do to reduce the effects of blue light exposure?
- Reduce your daily screen time (we never said this was going to be easy…)
- Take a 20-20-20 break – every 20 mins take a 20 second break from your screen and look at something 20 feet away
- Avoid exposure to blue light 30-60 minutes before bed time
- Increase your intake of foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, such as dark leafy greens, broccoli, corn and egg yolks
- Download a blue light filter to your computer or smartphone
- Go outside and enjoy some sunlight during the day to boost your vitamin D levels