Is Blue Light Harmful – The Truth and Debunking the Myths
Should you be worried about your exposure to blue light? Does the light emitted by your electronic devices really increase your risk of sleep and eye problems? If you skim through news article articles and web posts on blue light, you’ll quickly notice a trend that paints blue light as an enemy to your health—but is that the case?
This article will delve into the nitty-gritty of blue light with the sole aim of distinguishing the truth from myth. Think of it as a sort of exposé on the much-maligned blue light.
Blue Light Exists Naturally, Not Just from Your Devices
It was not until the digital age and proliferation of mobile devices that blue light caught the attention of mainstream media. This led to a close association of the artificial light emitted by these devices and harmful blue light. But contrary to common belief, blue light has always existed in our world since the beginning of time—and it’s not something man-made.
The sun is actually the main and most significant source of blue light. This means that you’re exposed to more blue light when sunbathing that from binge-watching Netflix on a huge flat-screen TV through the night. As you’ll learn further into this article, there are perks and some caveats to this near-constant exposure to blue light.
Fun fact: Did you know that the blue colour of a cloudless sky is only your perception? Blue light has characteristically short-wavelengths and high energy that allows it to scatter more easily in the atmosphere than other colours in the visible spectrum—hence the blue sky.
Blue Light is Not the Bad Guy You’ve Been Led to Believe
Blue light is typically dragged through the mud—with various sources condemning it for its harmful effects on our eyes and sleep. While I’m not denying that there is some truth to these accusatory claims, blue light is not all bad. In fact, research shows that the right exposure to blue light may have health benefits.
According to scientists from the Surrey Sleep Research Centre in the UK, exposure to blue light during the day could help prevent fatigue in the evening, boost performance, and keep you alert. Even more interesting, a study appearing in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews claims that blue light helps with depression.
It’s True that Blue Light Can be Harmful
The fact that blue light is natural and beneficial doesn’t exempt it from the accusation of its harmful effects. Numerous studies point to a link between a host of eye problems and the blue light emitted by your iPhone, laptop, and other devices.
One study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism shows that blue light hinders the production of melatonin by tricking the brain into thinking it’s still daytime. This, in turn, leads to issues relating to the quality/quantity of sleep, glucose homeostasis, blood pressure, and thermoregulation.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) also asserts that staring at your screen for hours leads to digital eye strain and dry eyes—which increases your risk of eye problems. The medical association of eye surgeons and physicians goes on to draw a link between excess screen time in children and health issues such as ADHD, Myopia, and Obesity. Please note that an article by David Ramsey (MD, PhD, MPH) appearing in the Harvard Medical School blog insists that “blue light from electronic devices is not going to increase the risk of macular degeneration or harm any other part of the eye.”
The takeaway is that blue is not bad for you! The issue is in our level/type of exposure – i.e., increasingly relying on devices that emit artificial after the sun goes down.
It’s Possible to Protect Your Eyes from the Negative Effects of Blue Light
“Blue light is everywhere—so how can I protect my eyes from its harmful effects?” Blue light filters and glasses are a divisive solution to protect us against harmful blue light. Some people and studies claim that it’s beneficial.