WHAT IS BLUE LIGHT & HOW HARMFUL IS IT?
Each cell in our bodies is a natural clock that aligns with the rhythm of nature. Sunlight is one of the most important markers of time and our bodies have evolved to go along with that sunlight. The problem is, our modern world is flooded with artificial light — from our electronic devices to LED lamps and, at what seems like the most basic level, the lightbulbs that surround us everywhere. Both natural and artificial light sources emit blue light, which is necessary for our bodies to function but which can quickly become harmful when we’re exposed to it more than we need to be — which we are, constantly.
What this overexposure — at home, in shops, in restaurants after sunset — does, in practice, is confuse our bodies into thinking the day is longer than it actually is, or that morning has come earlier than it should have. Our systems then can’t cope properly with this information and we experience sleep issues, which can become serious over time, leaving us fatigued, sluggish, in a bad mood, prone to cravings, and even anxious or depressed. Blue light can not only throw our natural rhythms completely off-track, but also lead to a number of other problems, ranging from vision impairment to a heightened risk of heart disease.
WHAT IS BLUE LIGHT?
Blue light makes up about a third of all visible light and sunlight is our main source of it. However, man-made devices from LED lamps to smartphones increasingly emit these blue rays. Some exposure to blue light is important for boosting alertness, cognitive function and mood, and blue light exposure in the right amount is key in regulating our circadian rhythms, but too much at the wrong time of day can throw us off kilter. Our eyes aren’t good at blocking blue light, and it reaches our retina directly, so repeated overexposure can pose a health risk both in the short and long term.
HOW HARMFUL IS IT?
Blue light is not something to recoil from absolutely, as it is naturally occurring and essential for organic life; instead it’s the artificial sources of it that cause potentially harmful overexposure. Possible detrimental effects include:
Sleep issues, which then lead to a lack of energy and concentration, as well as a worsened mood and mental health
Vision impairment or blindness
Increased risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease
Increased risk of depression
FIGHTING BLUE LIGHT
Before you throw your hands up in defeat — your life is, after all, saturated with technology and artificial lighting — there are plenty of strategies you can employ to limit superfluous exposure. Try any or all of the following:
Limit screen time where possible, for example by enforcing a no-screens rule past 8 or 9 p.m.
Sleep with the sun, going to sleep before 10 p.m. and waking before 6 a.m.
Activate your devices’ inbuilt blue light filters (most smartphones and tablets have them) all the time or from sunset to sunrise
You can also download blue light filters for computers and other devices
Wear protective eyewear: protective ophthalmic lenses with a blue light filter coating, also known as computer glasses, are one of the most effective ways of blocking out blue light indoors. Orange, yellow or brown tinted lenses are another protective option for outdoors and indoors.
Get your prescription or non-prescription specs fitted with anti-reflective lenses to block blue light from the sun and digital devices
BRANDS AGAINST BLUE LIGHT
Among the many potential side effects of overexposure to blue light is skin damage, something that’s not to be taken lightly, as it can lead to more serious problems down the road. Luckily, more and more cosmetics brands are bringing out blue light-shielding products that can prevent some of the nefarious side effects of artificial blue light, as well as UVA and UVB rays from direct sunlight, infrared radiation and pollution. Here are some of the major ones, many of which still come from relatively exclusive and high-end labels, so here’s hoping we will see these blockers make their way into the mainstream soon.