There’s been lots of research done in the last number of years suggesting that exposure to artificial blue light (through digital devices like phones, TVs, laptops and tablets) may be harmful to the eyes. It’s widely believed that such exposure could result in things like headaches, tiredness, and insomnia. Given that most of us spend a good chunk of the day in front of some kind of screen, it’s worth asking - what is blue light, how is it potentially harmful, and are certain people more at risk from its effects than others?
Not sure what the difference between artificial and natural blue light is? Get ready for some science. As you know, the sun rises and sets every day. During its risen hours, it emits what’s called white light, made up of a number of different visible and invisible rays. Though we can’t see the individual colours that make up white light (except when there’s a rainbow), we know it contains red, orange, yellow, green and blue light. Each of these coloured waves give off different amounts of energy, with blue being one of the strongest. As such, we humans are quite susceptible to it, absorbing it through our skin and eyes. It’s not a bad thing - the sun’s natural blue light keeps us alert and focused during the day, allowing us to wind down and prepare for sleep as darkness approaches. The artificial version of blue light meanwhile is emitted by digital devices; your smartphone, tablet, TV, computer. So who’s most exposed, and what are the risks?
It will come as no surprise that those of us who get our Dolly Parton on with a 9-5 job are exposed to lots of artificial blue light. Sitting at a desk in front of a computer for over eight hours a day is a significant amount of time, and many office workers experience ‘digital eye strain’ as a result. Also known as computer vision syndrome (CVS), this term refers to the discomfort associated with staring at a screen all day, and can result in headaches, sore eyes and even macular degeneration. Incredibly, 90% of employees suffer from digital eye strain, some without even realising.
Picture the scene. You’re exhausted, and have decided to get a wholesome early night in order to be fresh for that big meeting in the morning. You climb into bed, turn out the lights and… reach for your phone. ‘Just a quick look’, you say. Three hours later, you’re still scrolling. Sound familiar? Lots of us give in to the urge to check our social channels in bed, but in doing so, we could be causing havoc to our internal body clocks, known as our circadian rhythms. As mentioned above, natural sunlight has lots of benefits, including keeping us focussed and alert during the day. As darkness sets in, our eyes send signals to the brain to release a sleep hormone called melatonin, which makes the body feel tired. So, it makes sense that exposing those same eyes to a device emitting blue light at nighttime could confuse the body, and disrupt those melatonin levels. Like office workers, those who frequently scroll under the duvet often complain of negative health effects like fatigue, headaches and even insomnia.
Digital what? This is the name given to younger generations who don’t remember a time before digital devices were the norm. Note: We’re either making you feel really old, or you’re confusedly asking, ‘were digital devices not always the norm?!’ Today’s kids and teenagers are more likely to have their own mobile phones, access to tablets, and watch their favourite shows on smart TVs. As such, they’ve been exposed to blue light from a much earlier age than their parents, who still get emotional thinking about VHS. It’s worth bearing in mind when it comes to preventative measures you can take.
Digital devices certainly aren’t going anywhere, and nor should they - they’re obviously incredibly useful. But there are ways to counter their potential negative health effects, the easiest by wearing blue light eliminating glasses. Syght gaming glasses are engineered specifically to protect your eyes by reducing blue light levels, and we have frames to suit all ages.