Have you lately been having trouble falling asleep at night? Chances are your exposure to blue light is more than it should be. Blue light disrupts sleep and for many people is the root cause of poor sleep or insomnia. And when you consider that we spend roughly 5000 hours looking at blue-light emitting screens, this is hardly surprising. While too much work may or may not make Jack a dull boy, too much screen time will surely turn him into a poor sleeper.
But what is this blue light in the first place? Why is it bad for your sleep? And most importantly what can you do protect yourself from it?
In this post, we’ll answer these questions and more. So, let’s get rolling.
What is Blue Light?
When you drop the word “blue light”, many people think about the light emitted by screens, like computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and of course the good old television. But the fact of the matter is that blue light has been around forever, since it is part of natural light. So we can’t understand blue light without first understanding what natural light comprises of.
Light is made of electromagnetic particles that give out energy while traveling in different wavelengths. In other words, visible light is made of different colors — seven to be exact. Blue light is one of these colors. (Just look at a rainbow, which comprises of seven colors).
As you may, the human eye has its limitations. It can see only a tiny part of the entire electromagnetic spectrum of light — wavelengths ranging between 400n – 750nn.
Blue light, whose wavelength is roughly 400nn, comprises of the first part of the visible spectrum. Shorter wavelengths have more energy than longer ones. So in other words, blue light has more energy per photon compared to other colors in the spectrum visible to the human eye.
So, Is Blue Light the Same Thing as UV Light?
No, they are different.
While both of them are present in sun light, they have a different affect on our eyes and body. We cannot see UV rays because they have wavelengths between 100nn – 400nn. Since they have really short wavelengths, they have very high energy. As such, they cause a lot more harm, and this include skin burns.
Unlike UV light, we can see blue light. It can quickly penetrate through to retina and cause retinal photochemical damage. In simple English, this means blue light is not good for your retina.
Ordinary sunglasses act as an efficient shield against UV rays. But they don’t do much to protect us against blue light. All the same, if you are out in the sun, do wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.
What are the Main Artificial Sources of Blue Light?
As said above, blue light is present in the natural daylight. Many artificial sources, like electronic devices, LED lighting, digital screens, and fluorescent lighting screen give out blue light. That means even if your screen time is zero, you’ll still be exposed to blue light — but there’s a difference between natural blue light and artificial blue light.
Sun’s blue light is not harmful. In fact, we need natural daylight for our mental as well as physical health. Research suggests decreased sunlight during winter months may cause seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Blue light coming from the sun plays a crucial role in keeping our circadian rhythms — the internal biological clock that regulates sleep-wake cycle in humans — in good shape. Sun’s blue light also makes us more attentive and alert. In short, blue light is good for us.
However, according to a report by Harvard Medical School, blue light coming off screens can eff up our sleep cycle. Artificial blue light is emitted by many sources, such as:
- Tablets and Phablets
- Gaming consoles
- Digital clocks
- Fluorescent bulbs
- Poor quality LED light bulbs
- VR helmet
Note: While poor quality LED light bulbs may emit a considerable amount of blue light, high-quality LED light bulbs produced a very balanced light. You can minimize your exposure to blue light and still enjoy the benefits of LED lighting by purchasing CR90+ LED light bulbs.
How Blue Light Affect You?
Here are some ways in which prolonged exposure to electronic devices in proximity can affect your eyes:
Blue light emitting from digital screens and devices can reduce contrast, which in turn can cause a situation known as digital eye strain. If left unchecked, retina cells may get damaged.
Besides eye strain, blue light can cause headaches as well as physical fatigue. If the exposure to artificial blue light is prolonged, it may even cause retinal damage and increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
When the cells in the retina gets damaged or destroyed, macular degeneration kicks in. While retina has a built-in protection screen, known as melanin, we lose this protection with age. That’s because our body produce less melanin as we age.
Since melanin plays a key role in regulating our natural sleep-wake cycle, if we have less of it, we are likely to experience sleep problems. Persistent lack of sleep in turn can not only interfere with our everyday life but also puts at risk of certain conditions, such as depression.
With the average screen time in adults in the Western World today being higher than ever before, it’s about time we wake up to the negative effects of artificial blue light. More importantly, it’s time we do something about it.
How Blue Light Affects Your Sleep?
Circadian rhythms regulate our sleep-wake cycle. However, exposure to artificial light after in the night can eff up the production of melatonin in the body. This hormone regulates our sleep-wake cycle. So if it is not produced in the right amounts, we may experience sleep problems.
According to Harvard researchers, melatonin production tend to go for a toss upon exposure to the artificial blue light.
In another study, researchers noted that blue light exposure at night can prevent people from getting adequate sleep. In a yet another study, the researchers found that participants exposed to LE –eBook showed lower melatonin secretion and took more time to fall sleep.
In short, there’s enough evidence to suggest that nighttime exposure to blue light can disrupt sleep.
Some studies in fact have gone even further than that. They have suggested that there’s a correlation between blue light exposure and heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. At present, however, we don’t have enough proof that shows blue light causes these conditions. That said, one can argue that all these conditions have been previously linked to sleep disorders.
How to Protect Yourself from Unhealthy Effects of Artificial Blue Light?
There’s natural blue light and then there’s artificial blue light. The first one is good for us, while the second is no friend of ours.
An easy way to limit exposure to artificial blue light is to limit screen time, especially at night. Also, consider using red light LED bulbs in your bedroom and living room. Red light, research shows, doesn’t have a negative effect on melatonin production. Red light produces a very similar level of melatonin as complete darkness and doesn’t disrupt up your sleep cycle like other light colors.
Lastly, we recommend investing in high-quality LED bulbs. When shopping for LED lighting, look at the CRI rating. You should only purchase LED bulbs with a rating of CRI90+. These bulbs emit the most balanced light, and as such are good for you.
At LiquidLEDs, we only sell CRI90+ LED bulbs, as we won’t ever compromise on quality.