Our ancestors rose with the sun and were asleep by nightfall, which is perfectly aligned with our innate circadian rhythm – the body's internal clock. They didn't have iPhones of course, therefore exposure to artificial light is one of the most significant modern-day wellbeing issues as it can negatively affect natural rhythms like sleep patterns and cause insomnia, and even cause long-term eye strain and pain. It was only just over 30 years ago that a Harvard researcher proved that spectrums of light control the body's circadian rhythm (1). And, what we now know is that blue light, aka 'junk light', is a health culprit.
What is blue light?
Artificial light, or 'junk light', was introduced in the early 60s in the form of LED lights. Over the years, the amount of devices available in the market that emit this damaging blue light have skyrocketed – even compact fluorescent bulbs radiate more blue light, too.
Blue light is part of the visible light spectrum and reaches deeper into the eye. However, our eyes are not equipped to block this level of light in the evening (especially) and has damaging cumulative effects. We are increasing our exposure to the damage of blue light unknowingly, thanks to habits like scrolling through social media in bed on our phones or falling asleep to a show on our laptops.
Artificial light and damages to health
The main blue light exposure hazards to be aware of are:
• Sleep disruption (suppressed melatonin production)
• Brain inflammation
• Macular degeneration
• Decreased energy and productivity
• Weight gain
• Various illnesses and imbalances
When it comes to sleep, artificial light can be a factor that sparks trouble with insomnia. When 'junk light' is added to our day, the body's natural rhythms become confused. The retina can now receive light no matter what time of day it is, so the body doesn't know when to get ready for sleep. A study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that, when compared with dim light, exposure to room light during the night suppressed melatonin by around 85% in trials (2).
Research has found that exposure to blue light suppresses the production of melatonin more than any other type of light. It is believed that the shorter wavelengths in blue light is what causes the body to produce less melatonin because the body is more sensitive to this type of light. "In terms of light and our brains, there is a spectrum of wavelengths that impacts the human circadian system," said David Earnest, a professor and circadian rhythms expert at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. "Blue light is the most sensitive side of the spectrum." (3)
How to protect yourself from blue light
Below are several fundamental actions you can take to protect yourself from the harmful effects of blue light.
1. Adjust light and colour on your smartphones and tablets
There are easy and practical things you can do to help give your eyes a rest and not feel completely succumbed to the effects of blue light. At night, for example, make sure that you switch over to Night Mode – you can even have it set for almost 24 hours a day if you manually specify the time in Settings on your phone. This adjusts the brightness and can actually keep it low throughout the day.
Another way to calm the brain and avoid sleep issues caused by 'junk light' is to set a more warm tint within your Colour Temperature setting on your devices.
2. Add effective software to your computers
Iris is an amazingly effective software program that goes beyond what the others on the market offer. There are nine filters to choose from once downloaded, plus a bunch of other important features.
I have mine set to 'Health' and I also often adjust the kelvins (colour temperature) further in Settings.
We want to stay within the safest range of Kelvin as follows:
• During the day: 2000k-2300k
• At night: 1200k-1300k at most (the darker, the better)
3. Get blue light blocking glasses
There are many blue blocking glasses on the market today. Do your research to make sure the ones you purchase are in fact reliable and protective. Some companies will offer prescription lenses, too. While you're at it, it’s always a good idea to visit your local optician or optometrist to check the health of your eyes in general.
4. Use screen protectors on each of your devices
Screen protectors against blue light can help you avoid a myriad of health issues, including macular degeneration (or AMD or ARMD) – a medical condition, which may result in blurred or no vision in the center of the visual field. Early on there are often no symptoms, so it can creep up on you!
Make sure that you are aware of the impact of artificial light on not only your sight but on your overall health so that you can avoid further ailments like headaches, harmful sleep issues and serious health imbalances.
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1. Harvard EDU: www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
2. Oxford Academic: https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/96/3/E463/2597236
3. Live Science: https://www.livescience.com/53874-blue-light-sleep.html