COVID Alert: We will begin resuming our normal office hours on May 11th with enhanced safety procedures and a modified schedule. Please contact the office for more information or to schedule an appointment.

alarm-ringing ambulance angle2 archive arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up at-sign baby baby2 bag binoculars book-open book2 bookmark2 bubble calendar-check calendar-empty camera2 cart chart-growth check chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up circle-minus circle city clapboard-play clipboard-empty clipboard-text clock clock2 cloud-download cloud-windy cloud clubs cog cross crown cube youtube diamond4 diamonds drop-crossed drop2 earth ellipsis envelope-open envelope exclamation eye-dropper eye facebook file-empty fire flag2 flare foursquare gift glasses google graph hammer-wrench heart-pulse heart home instagram joystick lamp layers lifebuoy link linkedin list lock magic-wand map-marker map medal-empty menu microscope minus moon mustache-glasses paper-plane paperclip papers pen pencil pie-chart pinterest plus-circle plus power pushpin question rain reading receipt recycle reminder sad shield-check smartphone smile soccer spades speed-medium spotlights star-empty star-half star store sun-glasses sun tag telephone thumbs-down thumbs-up tree tumblr twitter user users wheelchair write yelp youtube

Is Blue Light Bad for Our Eyes?

How big of a role does a bright screen play in your nightly routine?

Since the advent of handheld devices that could access the internet, a lot of us have been browsing websites late into the night, our eyes glued to a bright little screen, making sure we haven’t missed any updates before we go to sleep. As optometrists, we can’t endorse this bedtime ritual. Screens emit a lot of blue light, which affects both our internal clocks and our eye health.

The Physics of Visible Light

The range of colors we can see is known as the visible light spectrum, a tiny sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum. Red light is the lowest energy light we can see and violet light is the highest. Below red light is infrared and above violet light is ultraviolet radiation. (Fun fact: the reason the sky and ocean appear blue to us is that blue light scatters more easily than other colors.)

The Impact of Artificial Light

For most of human history, the only source of blue light on Earth was the sun. Our bodies react to it. We feel more attentive, react faster, remember things better, and feel better overall during the day. When the sun goes down, it signals our bodies that it’s time to sleep. Biologically, we aren’t used to the concept of artificial light, which can be a problem when there’s so much of it around us.

When we use our phones or computers right before bed, we’re beaming subconscious signals to our brains that it’s not time to sleep yet, no matter how late it is. Our brains respond by suppressing the release of melatonin, an important neurotransmitter that helps us sleep. The result is that it takes us longer to fall asleep than it would otherwise and lowers our overall quality of sleep, which feeds into all the negative health effects of sleep deprivation.

A great way to avoid all these sleep issues is to simply put our devices away in the hour before we go to sleep. In cases where that isn’t possible, use the night mode function to cut out the blue light.

Blue Light and Eye Health

Because blue light is so close to UV radiation on the electromagnetic spectrum, many optometrists are concerned that it could be similarly harmful to our eyes, potentially increasing the risk of conditions like age-related macular degeneration. Fortunately, the screens we use emit only a tiny fraction of the blue light the sun emits (and none of the UV light).

A more immediate concern from blue light exposure is digital eye strain. After hours and hours of looking at a bright screen, our eyes might ache or struggle to focus, and we can even get headaches. Computer glasses and screen filters help make screens easier to look at, but a great trick is the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break to focus on an object 20 feet away.

We Can Answer Your Questions About Blue Light

If you’ve been experiencing symptoms of eye strain and want recommendations or you have other questions about how blue light can impact eye health, we’d love to discuss it with you at our practice! We want all of our patients to have the information they need to keep their eyes healthy.

We hope we’re a sight for your sore eyes!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.