Blue Light Explained

What we know as light is actually a spectrum of colors. Each color consists of a different amount of wavelength and energy. For example, blue light has a higher amount of energy and longer wavelengths, while red light has lesser energy and shorter wavelengths. Blue light is one of the colors in the light spectrum that is visible to the human eye. Although it is called ‘blue light, it does not actually appear blue to the naked eye. Blue light has a short wavelength that produces high amounts of energy. Imagine having so much energy produced out of a 400 to 500 nanometers wavelength. That’s intense!

Since the beginning of time, the sun has been a constant source of light. It comprises red, yellow, orange, blue, green, and violet light rays. The blue light on this spectrum is specifically responsible for promoting alertness and suppressing melatonin levels. It is also responsible for setting our body’s natural clock (circadian rhythm), which involves signaling our brains to wake up in the morning.

Also known as HEV or High-Energy Visible light, blue light is an artificial light emitted by our devices and some light bulbs. The problem with it now is that in recent times, the blue light spectrum is used by artificial light sources instead of the full visible light spectrum. There is no balance in the colors of light our eyes see, and it is increasingly becoming a huge problem.

Impact on Health

Many researchers and doctors have examined and explored the long-term and short-term impact of blue light exposure on our health. In terms of short-term effects, since our brains naturally associate blue light with daytime, excess exposure to blue light disrupts our circadian rhythm and makes it harder for us to fall asleep at night. This is one of the primary reasons most people rarely wake up refreshed and well-rested in the morning. This also inhibits our mitochondria (the cell’s powerhouse) from recharging and repairing themselves.

The extended amounts of time we spend using digital devices and the proximity of these devices to our faces have adverse long-term effects on our health. Prolonged exposure to blue light can cause fatigue, eye strain, inability to focus, headaches, damaged retina and blurred vision. Mitochondria dysfunction is another serious adverse effect of blue light exposure, and it can lead to serious health issues like obesity, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, autism, depression, autoimmune diseases etc.

How to Optimize our Sleep

The most effective way to ensure that our sleep is optimized is to reduce our exposure to blue light in the evenings. Turn off all sources of blue light in the evenings. This includes turning off all electronic devices once it gets dark outside and dimming all LED and fluorescent bulbs.

It might not be realistic to turn off all electronic devices once it gets dark; however, specific glasses can help reduce excess exposure to blue light. These blue light blocking glasses or amber glasses can reduce the effects of blue light on our eyes and allow our brains to produce the right amounts of melatonin.

Other things we can do to reduce blue light exposure and optimize our sleep include:

  1. Learn to dim all LED lights around you. You can also dim the brightness on your electronic devices or switch them to ‘night mode to reduce the emission of blue light at night.
  2. Try using a better lamp when you read at night. Get a lamp with an orange or red light instead of one that emits blue light. You can also try using natural lighting like candles.
  3. Create a routine to help you manage your blue light exposure. You can set an alarm to remind you to turn off your electronic devices about 2 to 3 hours before your bedtime.
  4. You can try using one of the numerous smartphone apps available that help reduces blue light emission. This way, you can use your phone before bed without worrying about blue light exposure.
  5. When you are ready for bed, use an eye mask to block out light sources in your bedroom. This helps improve your sleeping environment and optimize your sleep.