Light is something that is constantly all around us, in our homes and offices, shining from our televisions, smartphones, and computer screens. For the most part, nobody really stops to think about light and the effect of different colors of light has on our bodies, moods, and overall health. Were you aware that blue light can actually make you feel better? However, it can also cause insomnia as well as affect the health of your eyes and vision.
Without even thinking about it, our body processes blue light to regulate our biological clock. It also plays a role in the basic functions of our brain such as alertness, memory, cognitive performance, and emotion. Light therapy using wavelengths of blue light has been proven as an effective treatment that helps people of all ages with many different conditions. In fact, phototherapy in the form of blue light waves is a standard procedure used to reduce high levels of bilirubin in the blood of newborn babies. Some dermatologists also use blue light therapy to treat skin conditions such as rosacea, psoriasis, and acne. Blue light therapy is also used to help those that suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression that results from lack of daylight during the winter season. Although it is common for many of us to experience minor changes in the mood without adequate amounts of sunlight, severe forms of Seasonal Affective Disorder can cause debilitating fatigue, changes in appetite, and mood disorders. Many studies have shown that blue light therapy can be as effective as antidepressant medications in some people.
But there is also an alarming concern about the potential hazard caused by the blue light emitted from digital devices that most of us use on a daily basis. Blue light has been attributed to headaches, dry eyes, and difficulty sleeping. In its natural form, blue light from the sun helps our bodies determine night from day and therefore when it is time for us to sleep. At night, light can cause our body’s circadian rhythm, or biological clock, to become disrupted. With the widespread increase of digital devices and LEDs being used constantly in our everyday lives, blue light is having more and more impact on our bodies’ inability to sleep. This is concerning as getting enough sleep each night is very important to our overall health. While we are asleep, our bodies restore mental and physical energy as well as rebuild muscle tissue. Light can suppress the secretion of melatonin, which is the hormone that tells your brain when it’s time for bed. This is why staring at your television, computer, tablet, or phone right before you got to bed has a negative impact on your body’s ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Research has also shown that high-energy blue-violet light at the end of the visible spectrum, near UV light, has been found to cause significant damage to retinal cells in the eye and is a risk factor for the onset of age-related macular degeneration.
One very simple way to protect your body and your eyes from the dangers associated with blue light is to limit your exposure. Rather than checking email, texting on your phone, or watching television in bed at night, try reading a book or taking a bath before you go to sleep. For those times that you must be in front of a computer or other digital device, aim to keep blue light at a distance – blue light should not be near eye level for extended amounts of time, so be sure to move your screen as necessary.