Author: Dr.Joseph J. Allen, Doctor Eye Health, Practicing Optometrist
Children and students are facing a difficult challenge. Schoolwork and learning is no longer completed with paper books and on deskwork stationary. Instead, their learning takes place indoors and in front of digital screens.
These environments flood our eyes and our bodies with electrochemical signals in the way of light energy. This light energy travels from our computer screens, our phones and artificial light sources to our eyeballs which transmit information about our environment to our brains. This light information tells our brains what is in front of us, what is important, what to pay attention to, even what time of day it is. Our human bodies and brains have evolved over thousands of years to respect the light given to us from the sun and although we are grateful for the advancement of our technology, our human physiology has not had the chance to adapt to our contemporary world.
The recognition of high energy blue light exposure and its effects on our ocular and neurological functions is not a new discovery and has been an area of research and concern since the early 1990s. At first, researchers were concerned about the exposure to blue light for its potential contribution to blinding retinal disease, such as with age related macular degeneration. Since then, it has been found that specific retinal signaling pathways responsible for managing our sleep cycles and other bodily hormones are most sensitive to light energy in the blue light wavelength zone.
Blue light exposure has since been associated with symptoms of restlessness, eye fatigue, irritability, and depression amongst other mood disorders.
While the scientific research of blue light and how it affects your health are ongoing here are some easy steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.
1. Limit screen time
One of the best things you can start doing is limiting your digital screen time after the sun goes down. Blue light signals your brain similar to sunlight in that it will delay your melatonin production and shift your sleep cycles. Try turning off your phones and computer screens in the evenings and see how much more quickly you fall asleep at night.
2. Change your light bulbs and lamps
Many of our indoor light sources (especially energy saving LEDs) emit higher amounts of blue light and by switching to warmer lights and lamps specifically designed to filter blue light emissions, you can reduce the negative effects of these artificial light sources. These lamps from Dr. Lite are designed specifically to filter harmful blue light emissions.
3. Adjust screen brightness
Most smartphone and computer screens are now engineered with brightness functions and screen tinting modes. While it may not be as effective as reducing your screen time altogether, it can be a small step to help with minimizing light pollution in your home.
4. Get outside
One of the best things you can do to reset your circadian rhythm and natural sleep cycles is to get outside in the early morning hours. If you are not able to get outside during these peak hours, consider light therapy by speaking with your local medical professional.
5. Wear eye protection
Many forms of eye protection are now available in forms of UV and blue light protecting filters. To find the right protection for you, speak with your optometrist or local optical shop about what lens technology may work best.