Our eyes’ ability to take in light is what enables us to see. Traveling in waves with various lengths and amounts of energy, light comes in a few basic colors, which, when combined, form white light: red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. Blue light has the shortest wavelength and the most energy of all these colors. It’s the type of light that most commonly comes from digital screens, and is often blamed for sleeping problems and mental overstimulation. However, blue light can be found pretty much everywhere, and the sun exposes us to more of it than digital screens do. Now that people spend more time on screens than ever before, eye experts have conducted studies to determine how blue light affects eye health.
Blue Light Regulates Our Sleep and Wakefulness
Blue light regulates our Circadian rhythms, which govern our sleeping and waking patterns. When the sun rises, the blue light it radiates stimulates our bodies. When it sets, the absence of its light signals that it’s time to sleep.
One of the concerns that scientists have raised in recent years is whether overexposure to blue light, especially from technology, overloads our eyes and brains and alters our sleeping patterns. Depending on usage and exposure levels, blue light can keep us more energized than we need to be and prevent us from getting a good night’s sleep.
Blue Light Exposure Boosts Concentration
Because blue light is so high-energy and stimulates the body, it triggers the production of chemicals in the brain that improve focus. So if you’re working on a computer late at night, the simple act of looking at the screen will help you stay awake and alert, even if your brain feels tired.
In fact, much of the stimulation we receive late at night comes from the screens we look at before going to sleep. It heightens our concentration levels and keeps our brains working beyond a time when they might normally begin to wind down for the day. This can be both positive and negative, depending on if you work a lot at night or need more sleep.
Blue Light and Eye Disease
Different types of blue light have different wavelengths, some of which can be damaging to the eyes if overexposed. These wavelengths are not usually found in computer screens, but are mostly found in bright white lights. This is one reason why it’s not healthy to look directly into room lights, flashlights, or the sun. In a similar way to how UV light can burn the skin, this type of blue light can damage the retina over time.
Scientists have tested how excess exposure to blue light affects the eyes. Some hypotheses state that blue light from technology could increase a person’s chances of developing eye disease such as age-related macular degeneration. However, these studies have been mostly inconclusive.
Blue light-emitting technology has also not been around long enough or tested enough to be able to concretely determine that looking at screens for long periods of time will cause eye disease.
Blue Light Contributes to Digital Eye Strain
Many activities can cause eye strain, like reading a book for a long period of time in low light conditions and looking at a digital screen for hours on end without a break. Digital eye strain is primarily a result of two things: reduced frequency of blinking while looking at blue light, and the dry eye conditions that can result from reduced blinking.
Blue light often causes eye strain because the wavelengths scatter and go out of focus more quickly than other light. This tends to reduce the amount of color contrast the eye is able to detect, leading the eye to strain to interpret what it’s looking at. Furthermore, the dry eye conditions that result from reduced blinking can cause the eyes to ache or sting because they aren’t properly moisturized.
A good way to avoid digital eye strain is to take a regular break from looking at a screen every 20 to 30 minutes and look at something 20 feet away (or as far away from you as possible) for 20 seconds. This will help your eyes readjust briefly and help you remember to blink.
Eye strain does not cause lasting damage, but it’s still uncomfortable and should be avoided. There are several ways to do this, including activating night mode features on your digital devices and putting on blue light-blocking screen filters.
We’re Here to Help
Whatever your experience with blue light exposure and eyes strain may be, we’re here to help you take care of your eyes to the best of your ability. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!