Is Blue Light Harmful To The Eyes?
Is Blue Light Harmful To The Eyes?
Hey how is everyone today? Hopefully you’re doing well.
Today we’re going to be covering an extremely important subject; so important in fact that it just may change how you look at the world (quite literally!)
We’re going to get to the bottom of one very interesting question; is blue light harmful to the eyes?
Whether you’ve heard of it or not, chances are you’re exposed to it every day. So this is going to be one you don’t want to miss.
Let’s get right into it.
What Exactly Is Blue Light?
So what exactly is blue light?
The answer to that question is tied with how we perceive the visible light spectrum.
All of this spectrum, often referred to as the electromagnetic spectrum, is measured in what are known as nanometers (abbreviated nm), and goes from 380 nanometers (on the blue side) to 700 nanometers (on the red side)
So to make it simple, blue light is the visible light ranging from 380 to about 500 nm.
You’ll also often see this referred to as HEV, or high energy visible light, and makes up about a third of what you see. Sometimes you’ll see it broken down even further into blue violet and blue turquoise light, but it still falls under the same umbrella.
Now the weird thing about the light spectrum is that the closer you get to the red side of things, the longer the wavelength of the light ray and the less energy it has.
Where as the closer you get to the blue side, the shorter the wavelength and the more energy it has.
Does that remind you of anything?
Just like with sound waves, the longer the wavelength, the less energy it’s going to end up having. But as it gets shorter, that energy is concentrated, and that concentration of energy corresponds with a change in the color.
So by the time you’re on the blue end of the spectrum, those waves are already carrying a lot of energy. These are sometimes called blue-violet or even violet light. However light doesn’t stop there and continues on in both directions.
But this is beyond what the human eye can perceive.
When you extend past the visible red light rays, you get electromagnetic waves often referred to as infrared. These waves give off heat but are invisible to the naked eye.
An example of this would be a heating lamp. You can’t see the heat given off obviously, but you can feel it. What you can see is the red light emitted. The heat doesn’t actually come from the red light though, but rather from the invisible infrared light.
On the opposite end, once you travel past blue and violet light, you’re going into the invisible radiation territory. These waves should seem more familiar as these are what’s known as Ultraviolet (UV) rays.
These have the most energy.
Where Does Blue Light Come From?
Now where exactly is it all coming from you ask?
Computer screens, cell phones, LED lights, etc. are all sources of blue light. The biggest source by far though is our very own sun.
Pretty weird right? But think about it.
If you’ve ever been outside for a few hours on a really hot day, and you didn’t pack sunscreen, chances are you’d run the risk of sunburn. This is actually from the excess of UV that you’d be exposed to; and as we mentioned earlier, Ultraviolet radiation falls under the blue side of light.
So since the sun is literally a giant ball of energy, it only makes sense that it would be the biggest progenitor of that kind of light. That being said, with our recent advances in technology, it’s quickly taking a backseat.
Due to the rise of appliances and devices like televisions and smartphones, people are not only starting to spend more time in doors than out, but also more time in front of these screens.
Question is, is this a good thing or bad thing?
Well in short, it’s honestly both..
Are There Benefits To Blue Light?
There are some major benefits to blue light that make it incredibly important; so much so that without it, you’d likely run into quite a number of issues. One of the biggest benefits of adequate blue light exposure is healthy Vitamin D production.
Without going into too much detail, Vitamin D is a key component in making sure that your body runs normally. When you don’t get enough of it, serious health issues can arise such as a weakened immune system, osteoporosis, and so on.
While going outside is the easiest and most obvious way to make sure that you’re getting enough, new research is suggesting that special UV LEDs may offer the same benefit.
Other benefits include things like increased mental clarity, improved cognitive function and better memory. It even has a pretty profound effect on improving your mood.
If you’ve ever heard of the condition Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, (which is a pretty appropriate acronym) then you might be surprised to learn that’s actually a lack of blue light specifically that causes that slump in mood.
Due to the decreased light in the fall, winter, and early spring, and your likelihood of being inside more during those times, you have an increased chance of dealing with this disorder because of the fact that you’re not outside as much.
Ever notice how when summer comes around, everyone seems a lot happier and more upbeat?
That’s exactly why.
Of course the warm weather is partially responsible, but it’s also the exposure to sunlight that causes this sudden upswing in mood.
Something you may not have known though is that there’s actually a way of combating this disorder via what’s known as light therapy.
Basically, light therapy involves sitting in front of a specially made light which mimics the same effect that sunlight has on the body. This in turn, raises mood.
As you probably noticed by now, getting enough blue light is extremely important for proper function. But like most things in life, it’s best in moderation.
So what happens when you get too much?
Well this is where things get potentially problematic.
Is Blue Light Bad For You?
So the answer to this right off the bat is no blue light itself isn’t inherently bad for you, but getting too much of it certainly is.
So what happens when you do get over exposed?
A lot can happen, key word being can, since it’ll obviously depend on any number of external factors like age, health status, etc.
But we’ll start with some of the more benign issues and go from there.
When dealing with overexposure to this kind of light, one of the more common things that can happen is eye strain.
Eye strain can be in the form of fatigue, burning, watering, redness, you get the idea.
But because of the fact that blue light has such a high energy, it’s diffuse, meaning it’s kind of all over the place. You’ll commonly see this problem exacerbated with digital screens which show multiple images per second to produce motion.
This stresses the eye out since the human eye can’t focus on a single image, and it isn’t great at blocking this type of light out to begin with.
In fact, 100 percent of it passes through. So when you’re looking at a screen for any long period of time, you run the risk of visual fatigue.
This is why 100 percent UV blocking sun glasses are so effective when you’re outside since they block 100 percent of UV light trying to get through to the eye. It’s also why when watching a movie in a dark room, it’s recommended to have at least some sort of ambient lighting nearby to minimize this.
Another thing that can happen is it can disrupt your sleeping pattern. Over exposure to light at night can suppress melatonin levels, which is the hormone responsible for proper circadian rhythms (your internal clock) This lack of the important hormone can lead to bad sleep quality.
That’s why it’s recommended to get proper light exposure in the day time because it helps you to be more alert.
At night, that’s not necessary, and you should want to minimize it as much as possible.
But again, with our society so deeply ingrained with technology now, that’s become much harder to do, and is much easier said than done.
Moving on to the more serious side of things, one condition that overexposure to blue light can cause is macular degeneration. This is a deterioration of the eye, and can lead to decreased eyesight and even blindness.
As bad as that sounds, that’s not the end of it.
There have been studies that link excess blue light with increased risks of things like obesity, diabetes, and even certain types of cancer.
So yeah, it’s definitely not something to take lightly.
The good news is that the research is not definitive since it’s such a new topic, and at this time suggests correlation not causation of those conditions.
There’s a lot of debate in the scientific community on what its exact effects are on the human body. It’s a topic that, no doubt, requires much more research.
Still, even what evidence we have now is enough to take it seriously, and means that you should at least be aware of if you’re getting too much or too little since both can cause issues as we’ve clearly seen.
Speaking of which..
How Can You Currently Tell If You’ve Been Getting Too Much?
What’s the best way to tell if you’ve been getting too much blue light exposure?
Well a sudden onset of things like constant headaches, burning eyes, lack of focus, and even trouble sleeping are pretty common symptoms associated with this.
If you notice that lately you’ve just been feeling fatigued and like you can’t sleep, it’s very possible that this could be to blame.
Think about what your current night time habits are too.
If you find yourself checking Instagram or watching Netflix right before you’re supposed to go to bed, it’s likely over stimulating your brain and preventing you from getting the restorative sleep your body needs. The combination of light and moving images will do the exact opposite by keeping you awake.
So what can we do to solve this?
What you’ll have to do is minimize your exposure.
But how do we do this?
How Can You Minimize Exposure To It?
Luckily there’s quite a few things you can do even now to reduce your exposure to it. One really cool technique that I like to use when looking at a screen for a long time is the 20 20 20 rule.
This rule basically states that for every 20 minutes you’re looking at a digital image on screen, look away for 20 seconds at something 20 feet away. This can help minimize eyestrain since it acts as a soft reset for your eyes.
Another thing you can do involves changing your nighttime habits.
Since we mentioned earlier that excess light at night reduces melatonin levels which then reduces your quality of sleep, one thing you can do is limit all electronics 1 to 2 hours before you go to bed. This will allow your brain to relax, helping you fall asleep much faster.
Even certain smartphones nowadays have built in blue light filters that help as well. Check to see if yours does too.
One of my favorite ways to limit my exposure to blue light is using what are called blue light blocking eyeglasses. These glasses have specially made lenses that like the name would suggest, are able to filter out a large portion of blue light.
They have a number of uses including reducing eyestrain when staring at a computer or phone screen for long periods of time, and protecting your eyes from UV light when you’re outside.
There’s a bunch out there but the ones I use and would recommend are these. Without a doubt, these glasses will help your eyes out big time, especially if you’ve been suffering from the classic signs of digital fatigue like headaches, dry eyes, etc.
Of course you also have the simple option of just taking a break every once in a while.
We weren’t really meant to be in front of a TV or computer screen for hours on end, so do yourself a favor and get up to stretch every once in a while. Just a few minutes is all it should take, but you’ll likely feel a lot better.
Anything Else I Should Know?
Well we’ve went over a lot here today but just to recap, blue light is just about everywhere, with the biggest source being our sun. However since we’ve now become so accustomed to our devices, this is rapidly changing.
Did you know that over 80 percent of adults reported to using a device for more than 2 hours a day?
That’s a pretty huge number, which is almost guaranteed to increase in the coming years.
That means nearly all of us are directly impacted by blue light in some way shape or form, and unfortunately, it may be in unhealthy amounts; making it an extremely important subject.
Worse still is the fact that a majority of those impacted probably haven’t even heard of it before. Or they have, but haven’t really given it much thought.
The bottom line is this; given its potentially hazardous nature, it’s at least something you should be aware of. The research might be contentious right now, but it is showing that it might be having more of an effect on us than we realize.
In regards to our original question of whether it was harmful or not, the answer is yes, but in higher doses. The problem is It’s also something that’s beneficial to us too, which is why it’s not such a clear cut subject.
What you should takeaway from this article is that while we may not know all the details behind blue light, there are ways you can protect yourself.
Find yourself in front of a computer screen hours on end for work?
Sit an arms length away and lower the brightness.
Do your eyes start to burn when watching TV?
Try reducing the glare by minimizing lights around and overhead.
Even doing things like increasing text size helps with eye strain, and turning electronics off an hour before bed reduces your exposure and improves your sleep.
Light blocking glasses like I mentioned earlier also works wonders.
I mean a topic like this is especially important in a hobby like home theater where we have so much fun with our toys and in front of our screens, that we don’t actually stop to realize how much time we spend doing so (me included)
Hopefully now that you know just what it is though, you can look at your current habits to see what may need to change. And if something does need to change, at least you know that it’s not difficult to do.
But with that folks, I feel like that about wraps things up for now.
If you have any questions, or even have something to add, feel free to add a comment below because I love hearing from you.
Like always, make it easy, keep it simple! 😉
Hey everyone it’s nice to meet you. I’m Jasmere, the founder of Easy Home Theater. I’ve been with this hobby for many years now, and decided to create this site to share everything that I’ve learned from personal experience with you. I hope you find it helpful, and if you ever have any questions, be sure to reach out!