Naturally, blue light is meant to regulate your sleep-wake cycle and boost your brain functions such as alertness, memory, moods, and reaction times. All these benefits are received from the blue light found in sunlight. However, blue light has recently taken on a negative connotation with the rise in digital advancement. Digital devices like smartphones emit artificial blue light that causes problematic issues on your eyes and overall health. This article will illuminate on the harmful effects of blue light and how you can filter it from your smartphone.
Blue light is a high-energy and short-wavelength light ray that is found in any visible light source. The white light that you see is actually a blend of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet light rays. They all combine to make up the visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum. Light on the red end of the spectrum is more or less harmless to you because it has less energy while the blue end has high energy that’s why it can be harmful.
Apart from the sun and a smartphone, blue light is also produced by tablets, computers, TVs, and LED lights.
How is Blue Light Problematic?
As aforementioned, natural blue light is beneficial for you and so is the artificial blue light if used correctly, for example, in light therapy to treat depression. However, most people are addicted to their devices and cannot go even a few minutes without them. A study done in 2018 revealed that the average UK citizen checks their smartphone every 12 minutes!
It also revealed that most people check their phones within 5 minutes of waking up and 5 minutes before they sleep. Even night time has not been spared from the invasion of digital devices. At the time when most people several decades ago would be asleep, the modern man spends those hours still working or simply watching a movie. So much exposure to blue light is a trigger to several health issues.
Blue Light’s Effect on Sleep
Since the sun’s blue light regulates the sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm), exposure to blue light at night upsets it. Your retina has photoreceptors that are very sensitive to the presence or absence of blue light. Once those photoreceptors detect blue light from the sun in the morning, they send a message to the brain to suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone in the body that induces sleep.
This is what wakes you up and keeps you alert all day long. Conversely, the absence of blue light at night triggers the release of melatonin which makes you feel drowsy as your body prepares to sleep.
Blue light exposure at night confuses your brain so it suppresses melatonin, thinking that it’s still daytime. You, as result, remain awake and active at night so sleep becomes very hard to come by. If this exposure goes on for too long, you may develop chronic insomnia.
Blue Light’s Effect on Your Eyes
Since your eyes are very sensitive to blue light, overexposure to it could cause the development of eye conditions such as:
Digital eye strain- This is an eye condition that characterizes fatigue of the eyes accompanied by other aches on your back, neck, and shoulders. It’s caused by spending too much time right in front of a screen where blue light exposure is at its most intense.
Macular degeneration- This is a condition that is characterized by the degeneration of the cells in the retina. Its main symptom is blurry vision. Blue light accelerates the death of the retina’s cells which usually happens on its own as you grow older. In severe cases, it leads to blindness.
Blue Light’s Effects on Other Health Conditions
Insomnia from nighttime blue light exposure sets off a domino effect on your health. It leads to the development of illnesses such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, depression, and even cancer.
Excessively exposing your skin to blue light from screens also causes the faster appearance of aging signs. This is because it triggers the release of free radicals in skin cells.
How to Filter Blue Light from Your Smartphone
Now that you’re familiar with the effects of screen time on your health, finding mitigation measures should be your next step. Here are some of the ways you can filter blue light from your smartphone:
Blue light filters are not your ordinary screen protectors; they are made with a special coating that prevents blue light from going past it. They are made from tempered glass that you can fit on your screen. Besides filtering blue light, it also protects your screen from scratches and breakages. They can also be made with an anti-glare coating to remove glares from your smartphone.
This is eyewear that also has a special coating that blocks all or partial blue light from reaching your eyes. Blue light glasses are flexible, in that they can be used on several devices, unlike screen protectors that can only be used on one device at a time. They can be tinted amber or clear depending on how much blue light they block. The former blocks all blue light so they’re best used at night when your eyes shouldn’t be receiving any blue light whatsoever. Clear glasses, on the other hand, block partial blue light so are used during the day when blue light doesn’t affect you as much.
These are smartphone applications that come in-built to filter out blue light from your display. Some of the most popular ones are like F.lux, Night Shift, and Night Light. When turned on, they give your screen a yellow tinge which results in poorer contrast so clarity is reduced, affecting display of images and texts.
Limit Screen Time
One of the surest ways of avoiding blue light is cutting back on screen time. When you don’t have to use your smartphone, keep it away. You can stop using it a few hours before you go to sleep to allow your body to wind down.
You can also occasionally take a digital break for the sake of your physical and mental wellness.
Keep Your Distance
Avoid holding your smartphone too close to your eyes. Hold it an arm’s length away at the same level as your eyes. You can also make answering calls via earphones a habit instead of holding it next to your ears.
Digital advancement is not about to slow down so new devices that expose you to more blue light are still and will continue being invented. This, therefore, calls for you to take steps to reduce your blue light exposure.