Stephanie Woods via NaturalHealth365 – The fact that using your digital devices at bedtime can interfere with your sleep due to blue light emitted by light-emitting diodes (LED) screens is something we’ve known for years. As devices become more prevalent and become a part of everyday life for many, there has been an increase in certain health issues that are often caused by device over-usage. At the core of these problems is the LED screen due to the blue light that they emit.
Researchers are now discovering that the health ramifications associated with blue light reach far beyond sleep disturbance. Exposure to blue light can disrupt the secretion pattern of specific hormones, upset the body’s thermoregulation, and disturb circadian rhythm. New evidence, however, shows that it decreases fat oxidation levels during sleep. One study found strong evidence that the type of light exposed to may influence certain physiological changes, including unwanted weight gain.
Why Is Blue Light Emitted by Screens So Dangerous?
Blue light is a light wave that is part of the light spectrum that the human eye can see – the visible light spectrum. It has the highest energy and shortest wavelength, vibrating in the 380 to the 500-nanometer range. It is most often associated with LED-lit screens for computers, smartphones, and digital devices. However, around a third of all visible light is actually blue light. In fact, the sun is the primary source of blue light.
The problem with blue light emissions from device screens is that the eyes are directly exposed for lengthy periods and from close proximity. Exposure to sunlight typically does not have these issues. Most people wear sunglasses, shield their eyes, and limit exposure. But, of course, having the source too close to the eyes is not a problem with the sun.
Blue light does have its place, providing some health benefits – but originating from natural sources such as the sun is preferable. However, when it comes from a screen that is mere inches from a person’s face, that can be a problem.
From eye strain to weight gain and depression, studies link blue light overexposure to MULTIPLE health conditions
The eye is not very efficient when it comes to blocking blue light. As blue light enters the eye, it passes through the lens and cornea to the retina. Retinal cells convert the light and send impulses to the brain that turns light waves into images. Essentially, the eye is wide open to receiving blue light, so it can be too much of a good thing when it is exposed via a device screen that is inches away.
Health problems related to continued exposure to blue light (especially via LED screens) include:
- Damaged retinal cells
- Eye conditions like macular degeneration
- Myopia and nearsightedness
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Sleep deprivation
- Inhibited production of melatonin
- Blurred vision
- Weight gain
- Decreased fat oxidation
- Depression (nighttime exposure)
- Changes in skin cells that speed the aging process
- Decrease in the hormones leptin and cortisol (stress hormone)
- Increased blood sugar levels (due to disrupted circadian rhythm)
- Decreased metabolism
Scientists are only now beginning to connect the dots regarding the far reach of overexposure to blue light. It has traditionally been believed that it disrupted sleep patterns, which is true, but researchers now understand that it is only the tip of the iceberg.
So how can you protect against the harmful effects of blue light exposure? Here are 5 simple solutions for you to try
Anyone who uses a computer, tablet, smartphone, or other digital devices on a regular basis can benefit from decreasing their exposure to blue light. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to give your eyes a break and your health a boost.
- Shut down devices well before bedtime – Exposure to blue light before going to bed tricks the brain into believing it is daylight. In response, it does not produce melatonin which induces sleep. This can lead to insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns. By shutting down all devices at least two hours before bed, the body has a chance to make adjustments and transition from daytime to bedtime by producing the melatonin the body needs.
- Blue light glasses – More studies are shedding light on the effectiveness of blue light glasses. In response, more doctors and researchers agree that the glasses do indeed help people reduce their exposure to blue light and get better sleep.
- 20-20-20 Rule – Every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Place interesting objects and pictures at different points around the room, 20 feet or more from you, to have something interesting to look at, and you will be more motivated to look longer.
- Blue light reduction apps – An app like f.lux adjusts a computer’s display color to reduce blue light. It can be set to change automatically at dusk or at a specific time, such as a few hours before bed.
- Control exposure to screens – Most people have some control over the lighting and glare on their screens. Move the device further away, so it isn’t as close, bring the device to a more posture-friendly height and level, and adjust the light in the room to reduce glare.
- Blue light filters for devices – Blue light filters for computer screens, tablets, smartphones, and other devices. These filters act as a barrier between the screen and the eye, so the exposure is greatly reduced.
- Opt for OLED lit screens – Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are a kinder, gentler light source that quietly overtakes LED-lit screens. More televisions, computers, phones, and other devices are beginning to use OLED because it does not produce as much blue light as LED screens. In fact, OLED exposure actually shows better physiological function, including higher metabolism and higher production of melatonin when compared to LED exposure.
We all love our devices, but there can come the point where we no longer have our devices, but they have us. Your device is not more important than your health.
You can replace a screen or smartphone. You can buy a new computer. Your body and mind are much more precious — and irreplaceable. There are so many options out there to make your screen time safer and more enjoyable. Take some time to find the right one for you.
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