It makes the sky blue, but too much exposure to blue light can also damage your vision
There is no way around it. The modern-day work life, for most people, demands hours of steady screen time. We’re expected to be on call for email, 24/7, and we scroll through our cell phones, in a bedside bluish glow, before we drop off to sleep. When you factor in the added leisure time spent staring at Netflix and Chill-ing, in homes lit with shorter-wavelength bluish bulbs, it’s no wonder that our eyes are suffering.
According to a recent report by the American Optometric Association (AOA,) more than 70 million people spend too much time staring at a screen. A major increase in Computer Vision Syndrome, also known as as Digital Eye Strain (eye and vision-related problems caused by logging all that screen time), is now an epidemic. And it’s not only the fact that we are chronically straining our eyes, we are also exposing them to blue light, which has been linked not only to eye fatigue but to blurred vision, insomnia, migraines and potentially macular degeneration, in extreme cases. There is even research that indicates ongoing exposure to blue light can potentially stimulate free-radical production in the skin and lead to photoaging and issues with pigmentation.
Blue light—a high-frequency band with shorter wavelengths, known as High Energy Visible (HEV) light—is in the violet-blue band on the visible light spectrum. The sun is the main source of blue light, and it is the reason that the sky is blue. Blue light from the sun syncs up our circadian rhythms, and helps the body regulate its natural sleep and wake cycles. At night, when blue light fades, melatonin rises and we become sleepy. In the morning, when blue light hits, it suppresses melatonin, and wakes us up. “Unfortunately, in modern times, the blue light just keeps hitting our eyes—from computers, phones and television screens, even regular light bulbs,” says Sally Fisher, MD, MS, an Integrative Medicine practitioner in New Mexico in private practice, who also consults with guests at Sunrise Springs Spa Resort in New Mexico.
Blue light exposure isn’t only linked to eye strain and sleep deprivation. Exposure to excessive blue light, especially at night, can also lead to weight gain, depression and chronic illness. Two years ago, NASA changed all the lights on the International Space Station to ones that dim and change to longer-wavelength light, as night falls, because they were shown to have less impact on human physiology than blue light.
What can we do? Prevention is always the best remedy, which would mean trying to limit your screen time. If that isn’t possible in your workday, at the very least, limit your exposure at night and power down your devices 90 minutes before you go to sleep. You may consider blue-light blocking glasses, which throw up a physical barrier that some say protects the eyes.
Get outside in the morning, pull away from your devices at night and get back to the age-old rhythm of being human, before technology clouded our vision and interrupted our sleep.