The Dangers of Blue Light Exposure
It’s probably a safe bet that you spend a good amount of your day staring at a screen. Our lives have become so dependent on technology. However, that device you’re reading this article on is exposing you to light that is bad for your eyes. Everything from TVs, computers, tablets, and your phone emits blue light rays, yet many of us don’t understand the dangers of blue light exposure.
Although blue light has certainly made our lives easier, the dangers of blue light exposure include impacting your sleep cycle, damaging your vision, and affecting your overall health. As we in functional medicine learn more about blue light rays and your eyes, we are starting to understand the dangers of blue light exposure.
The good news is that by supporting your eye health you can protect your eyesight from the dangers of blue light exposure. I’m going to tell you how you can protect your eyes from the dangers of blue light exposure and an exciting new way to ensure you’re giving your eyes optimal support. First, let’s discuss blue light rays.
What is Blue Light?
All light is a form of electromagnetic energy. It is made up of electromagnetic particles that travel in waves. The shorter the wavelength, the higher the energy. Most electromagnetic waves are invisible. However, a small band of waves known as visible light can be seen by the human eye.
This band ranges from 380 nanometers (violet light) to 700 nanometers (red light). If you remember in grade school when you first learned about the colors of the light, you may remember ROY G BIV, an acronym used to remember the colors of the rainbow. The colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet combine to form the white light we see when we look at the sun.
Each color has a different level of energy and wavelength depending on where they fall within the spectrum. Blue light waves have very short, high-energy wavelengths. They are slightly longer and less powerful than ultraviolet (UV) rays that are released from the sun. However, the dangers of blue light waves from sources such as LED lights, TVs, cell phones, and tablets can affect your eye health. So where do these rays come from?
Where Does Blue Light Come From?
I’ve mentioned how your tablets, cell phones, TVs, and computers release blue light waves. Don’t worry, you don’t need to throw your devices in the trash can. The truth is that blue light waves, similar to all colors of visible light, are everywhere.
One of the main sources of blue light is the sun. That’s right. As with UV rays, your skin and eyes are constantly exposed to different light rays from the sun. However, you can be exposed to blue light without being outside in the sun. As a matter of fact, the sun and your devices make up just a fraction of your exposure to blue light. The largest source of blue light exposure comes from right inside your home and workplace – LED lights.
LED stands for light-emitting diode.1 LED lighting products produce light up to 90% more efficiently than incandescent light bulbs, at a much lower cost. Other benefits of LED light bulbs include:
- Longer lifespan
- They use less energy
- They are cooler, so less risk of burning skin
- Better for the environment
However, the trade off is that LED lights also release very large amounts of blue rays. Though more energy-efficient than many traditional light sources, LED lights are more directional than traditional light bulbs, emitting light in a specific direction. The concentration and direct impact of LED lights make them more powerful. The larger and brighter an LED source is, the more damaging it can be to your eyes.
The Dangers of Blue Light Exposure to Your Eyes
We are exposed to more blue light rays now than we were before. The more time we spend looking at LED-powered devices in close proximity, the more at risk we become to developing macular tissue breakdown and cataracts.
The good news is that your eyes are built with protective measures to guard them from some sources of light. For example, your cornea and lens are the first line of defense for the retina, which receives light and converts the light into neural signals, and sends these signals on to the brain for visual recognition. Basically, it’s what helps you identify objects you see regularly. Less than 1% of UV light reaches your retina. However, your eyes cannot efficiently block blue light rays.2
That’s because blue light rays are short wavelengths and can bypass the measures in place to protect your eyes. This high energy, short wave blue light with a wavelength between 415 and 455 nanometers is linked to eye damage.3
Blue light devices such as your tablet or cell phone produce blue light wavelengths between 400 and 490 nanometers.
Almost all visible blue light bypasses your cornea and lens and reaches your retina. This increases your risk of macular degeneration, eye strain, and altered sleep cycles. Let’s talk more about the danger of blue light exposure and the risks associated with it.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss. There are two types of macular degeneration – dry and wet. With dry macular degeneration, the center of the retina deteriorates. With wet macular degeneration, leaky blood vessels grow under the retina.4
Prolonged exposure to blue light can damage the retina and contribute to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50. It occurs when the central part of the retina, called the macula, deteriorates. This leads to irreversible vision loss.
As more of us rely on devices that emit blue light, macular degeneration is becoming more common among younger people. Research shows that exposure to blue light can cause retinal molecules, which sense light and send signals to the brain, to trigger the release of toxic molecules in photoreceptor cells.5
These chemical reactions can damage or kill our photoreceptor cells, which enable us to see.
Using devices up close for an extended period can strain your eyes. However, it’s not because you’re overworking your eyes. It’s because you blink your eyes less.
Blinking is necessary for two reasons: clearing away dust particles and lubricating the eyeball. Normally, our eyelids blink about 15 times per minute. However, when you are constantly looking at screens, your blink rate is cut in half.
The less we blink, the less moisture is produced, the harder it is for your eyes to work. This can lead to dry eyes, headaches, and eye irritation.
Impacts Your Sleep Cycle
One of the more well-known risks of blue light exposure is its ability to affect your circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle. This is because light sensors in your eyes sense bright daylight when exposed to blue light and signal your brain to wake up.
Another danger of blue light exposure is that it decreases your body’s natural production of melatonin.6
Your body begins to produce melatonin when it gets dark outside to signal that it’s time for sleep. Blue light rays disrupt this process so your body isn’t producing enough melatonin to help your body wind down.
Sleep is a vital part of learning, memory retention, and even detoxifying your body. When you don’t get enough sleep, your risk of developing chronic issues including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity increases dramatically.
How to Limit Blue Light Exposure
We’ve all become so dependent on our devices. Since ditching your cell phone, laptop, or tablet isn’t realistic, let’s talk about a few ways to limit the dangers of blue light exposure.
Cut Down on Screen Time
Taking regular breaks will give your eyes a break and limit your exposure to blue light rays. A good method to accomplish this is to use the 20/20/20 method. Whenever you are using a blue light device, take time to shift your focus. Every 20 minutes, shift your gaze to an object 20 feet away for a minimum of 20 seconds. You can also blink slowly 20 times while you gaze off to moisturize your eyes. This can decrease the amount of time spent looking at blue rays and avoid eye strain.
Get Blue Light Glasses
I’m constantly working and looking at my computer screen and I began noticing how much my eyes hurt after a long period of time. I have a pair of Fitover Night Swannies from Swanwick to help limit my eyes to blue light rays from my computer. I like the fitovers because I can wear them over my glasses. The results have been amazing. I can tell a difference and notice how much they have helped. The best part is you don’t even need a prescription from your eye doctor to get blue light glasses.
These yellow-tinted lenses increase contrast on your screen and filter blue lights. They are designed to prevent blue light from reaching your retina and causing eye damage. If you find yourself suffering from frequent headaches, difficulty sleeping, blurry vision, and dry eyes, I recommend getting a pair of blue-light glasses.
Utilize Dark Mode on Your Computer or Tablet
Most of our computers and tablets display black text on a white background by default. However, most new devices and apps for your phone now come with a dark mode option. Dark mode changes the display to white text with a dark background. Using warmer tones significantly reduces your exposure to blue light.
You can also reduce brightness and purchase blue light filtering screens for your electronic devices. Filters can block up to 60% of blue light emitted from your screen.
Taking these measures will limit the dangers of blue light exposure. However, since you can’t avoid all blue light exposure in this modern world, it’s also crucial for your eye health to provide your eyes with the nutrients they need.
Key Nutrients for Eye Health
Blue light devices are here to stay. As I said earlier, it’s unrealistic to just ditch our devices that are a part of everyday life. This is why it is so important to support your eye health. Let’s discuss the nutrients your eyes need.
Vitamin A and Beta Carotene
Your body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, which is essential for your eyesight. Pumpkin is a great source of vitamin A. One cup of pumpkin contains 9,875 IUs of vitamin A, which is in the range of optimal amounts per day. I recommend getting 2,000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin A per day. Other foods rich in vitamin A include leafy greens, orange vegetables such as carrots, grass-fed beef liver, and wild-caught salmon.
Pumpkin also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that protect your skin and eyes from blue light exposure. Your body naturally produces these two carotenoids that are found in the macula lutea and act as a natural sunscreen.
Vitamin C is a potent free radical scavenger that protects your eyes against oxidative damage. Foods such as kiwi, cantaloupe, leafy greens, and strawberries are rich in vitamin C.
Many people believe that when you take vitamin C, your body automatically absorbs the full dosage — and the more you take, the more benefits you’ll get. However, studies have shown you only absorb 12-14% of vitamin C in an oral supplement form, and taking any dose over 200mg allows for only 50% absorption.
Whatever vitamin C your body doesn’t absorb is secreted through your urine. That’s a tough pill to swallow — literally! That’s why I recommend Liposomal Vitamin C.
Zinc promotes eye health by supporting the retina, protein structure, and cell membranes of the eye. It also assists vitamin A in creating a pigment called melanin, which protects your eyes from UV light. Food sources of zinc to include in your diet are grass-fed beef, oysters, nuts, and seeds.
Vitamin E is a strong free radical scavenger that supports your eye health by protecting your tissues in the eye from oxidative damage. Good sources of vitamin E in your diet are leafy green vegetables, wild-caught salmon, avocados, mangoes, blackberries, raspberries, and cranberries.
Since you can’t get optimal amounts of these vitamins through food alone without eating large amounts, it’s important to supplement.
The Best Supplement to Support Eye Health
I was watching the stars with my daughter Elle one night on a camping trip in New Mexico, when I was struck by the powerful realization that if I didn’t do something proactive about my vision, then it would quickly deteriorate with age.
As we stared up at the big beautiful night sky, I was overwhelmed by emotions and thoughts about how I was growing older and my vision was already worse than it was just the year before. I knew I needed to take care of my vision and support it for as long as I could so that I could keep looking at the same stars with my daughter for years to come.
That’s why I have spent the past year going over endless research to develop VisiGuard™. This one-of-a-kind, physician-formulated, third-party tested supplement contains select botanicals and powerful carotenoids necessary to support healthy vision.
VisiGuard™ contains lutein, astaxanthin, and zeaxanthin to protect your eyes. These powerful carotenoids work together to support optimal eye health, vision, and eye comfort. They also form a potent line of defense against the daily exposure to harmful blue light.
It also contains optimal amounts of Vitamin A as Beta Carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc & Copper help support and maintains healthy vision by neutralizing free radicals that may be harmful to eyesight.
It’s just a matter of fact that our vision gets worse as we age. However, you can limit the dangers of blue light exposure by limiting your screen time, wearing blue light glasses, and using dark mode on your devices. Supporting your eye health with VisiGuard™ is another great way to give your eyes the nutrients they need for optimal health.
Is LED light bad for your eyes?
Is LED light bad for your eyes?
LED lights release very large amounts of blue rays, more than your tablets or the sun. Though more energy-efficient than many traditional light sources, LED lights are more directional than traditional light bulbs, emitting light in a specific direction. The concentration and direct impact of LED lights make them more powerful. The larger and brighter an LED source is, the more damaging it can be to your eyes.
How can I protect my eyes from blue light?
How can I protect my eyes from blue light?
Cutting down screen time, wearing blue light glasses, and using dark mode on your devices are great ways to lower the dangers of blue light exposure.
How strong are blue light wavelengths?
How strong are blue light wavelengths?
High energy, short wave blue light with a wavelength between 415 and 455 nanometers is linked to eye damage. Blue light devices such as your tablet or cell phone produce blue light wavelengths between 400 and 490 nanometers. Almost all visible blue light bypasses your cornea and lens and reaches your retina. This increases your risk of macular degeneration, eye strain, and altered sleep cycles.
- The Basics of LED Lighting. Energy Star. 2021.
- How Light Reaches the Eye and Its Components. David H. Slimey. United States Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine. 2018.
- Research progress about the effect and prevention of blue light on eyes. Zhu-Chun Zhao, et al. International Journal of Ophthalmology. 2018.
- What Is Macular Degeneration?. Kierstan Boyd. American Academy of Opthalmology. 2021.
- Blue light excited retinal intercepts cellular signaling. Kasun Ratnayake, et al. Scientific Reports vol. 8. 2018.
- Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. Anne-Marie Chang, et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2015.
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