What is Blue Light and How Does It Affect Me?
In today’s increasingly digital world, most of us spend a significant part of our day looking at a computer screen, only to go home and spend our down time doing more of the same. All this screen time can affect our eye health and sleep patterns. But why is that? A big reason is what’s known as blue light.
What is blue light?
The only source of light for our earliest ancestors, of course, was the sun. Then came light from fire, candlelight, oil lamps, and eventually the electric lightbulb. Fast forward to today, and now the world is flooded with light from a variety of sources.
Smartphones, televisions, and multiple digital devices emit what is known as blue light, a color of light on the visible spectrum.
Each color of light in the visible spectrum has differing amounts of energy and wavelengths. Red light has longer wavelengths and is made up of less energy. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s blue light. Blue light has a higher concentration of energy and has shorter wavelengths.
Sunlight, which contains all colors of the visible spectrum and is called white light, is our biggest source of blue light. Because of the advent of technology, we also get blue light from:
- LED lights
- Fluorescent lights
- Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs
- Computer, smartphone, television, and tablet screens
Is all blue light bad?
Blue light actually has many benefits. Blue light during daylight hours helps regulate circadian rhythms and provides small increases in alertness and cognitive function.
Blue light is one of the most energy efficient and low-cost forms of light, which explains its pervasiveness in our everyday life.
Because of its efficiency and ubiquity, we are exposed to a higher concentration of blue light than ever before. But too much blue light can be a bad thing. Blue light exposure – especially at night – can disrupt natural sleeping patterns, which can leave us feeling tired in the morning.
Blue light can also contribute to digital eye strain, a temporary discomfort that is becoming more prevalent in our tech-driven society.
Digital eye strain comes from looking too long at electronic screens, such as smartphones, computers, e-readers, and televisions. Digital eye strain is especially common in individuals in office environments who spend a majority of their day working on a computer.
Some of the symptoms of digital eye strain include:
- Sore, dry, itchy, or red eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Sore neck or shoulders
- Blurred vision
- Poor sleep
How to cut back on blue light in your life
To sleep better and avoid straining your eyes, here are some helpful habits to adopt.
It sounds obvious, but the first thing to do is limit the amount of screen time each day. It’s the simplest way to avoid large amounts of blue light and the digital eye strain that can result.
At the very least, avoid screen time just before bed because of blue light’s impact on the body’s circadian rhythm.
Also avoid using digital devices in the dark. Looking at a single screen in a dark room increases the likelihood of straining your eyes. One simple trick is to lower the screen’s brightness, because it decreases the blue light emitted from a device.
Experts suggest the “20-20-20 rule” to avoid eye strain for individuals who use a computer all day.
This rule says that for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. These frequent breaks lessen the strain on the eyes caused by computer screens.
An additional strategy is to use an app or program that filters blue light. Most modern cell phones have blue light filters (or night modes) already installed, such as the iPhone’s Night Shift or Samsung Galaxy’s Blue Light Filter. These filters automatically adjust after sunset to limit the amount of blue light being emitted by switching to warmer colors.
There are similar blue light filtering apps for desktops and laptops, such as F.lux, which work in the same way. These apps limit the amount of blue light for individuals who still need to work after sunset.
Blue light-blocking glasses are also increasingly popular in today’s tech-driven society. These glasses, which can be either prescription or non-prescription, have special tinted lenses that lessen the amount of blue light being absorbed by the eyes.
Support your eyes with a supplement
Blue light is everywhere, and with the increased reliance on digital screens, it is unavoidable. That’s one reason why Thorne is launching its reformulated Memoractiv™.
The new Memoractiv formula contains Lutemax® 2020, which supports the ability of the eyes to filter high-energy blue light, as well as providing support for cognitive function and mental focus.*
In a 6-month study, 48 healthy subjects who spent at least six hours daily in front of computer or other blue screens were given either 24 mg of Lutemax or a placebo daily.
The density of the pigment in the macula at the back of the eye (which helps filter blue light) increased in the Lutemax group, as well as improvements in eye fatigue, sleep quality, and visual performance.1*
Memoractiv can benefit individuals who spend long hours looking at computer screens, healthy individuals looking to maintain a mental edge, or anyone seeking support for memory and focus.*
- Stringham J, Stringham N, O’Brien K. Macular carotenoid supplementation improves visual performance, sleep quality, and adverse physical symptoms in those with high screen time exposure. Foods 2017 June 29;6(7). pii: E47. doi: 10.3390/foods6070047