What’s the Truth About Blue Light?

As our digital device use increases across almost all age groups, there has been a lot of buzz about blue light.  

What is blue light exactly and why are people so worried about it?  

Well, blue light is the short-wavelength, high-energy light that makes up the “BIV” in the visible light spectrum we know as “ROYGBIV.”  On the light spectrum, after blue light comes invisible radiation known as UV light, which has a shorter wavelength, and is thus higher energy.  Higher energy light has more damaging potential to the human body.  We know that UV has damaging potential (sunburn, increased skin cancer risk, etc.), so questions have been brought up about the potential damaging effects of blue light, UV’s next-door neighbor on the spectrum.

Where does it come from?

Most people are aware that digital screens emit blue light, but THE SUN is far and away the largest source of blue light we are exposed to.  It’s what makes the sky blue!

The Good–Why we need blue light

Blue light is paramount in signaling the body that it is daytime versus nighttime.  The sleep/wake cycle, called circadian rhythm, counts on blue light entering the eyes to signal it is daytime.  This comes back to the sun being the main source of blue light.  We are “wired” to be up when the sun is up and asleep when it’s not.  In fact, blue light exposure suppresses melatonin in the brain, keeping us awake.

The Bad–Why it gets a bad rap

When concerns about blue light first arose, they were centered around its potential as high-energy light to damage the eye, specifically the retina.  Science has not proven a correlation between blue light exposure and retinal diseases (specifically macular degeneration) as originally suspected.

What science has proven is that blue light from digital screen use is disrupting the circadian rhythm in people, causing issues with sleep. 

Blue light protection–When it’s useful

Since blue light plays such an important part in the sleep/wake cycle, it would be crazy to block out all of your exposure to blue light.  In fact, get outside or go for a drive and let the sunlight hit your retinas for 5 minutes a day.  After that, throw on your sunglasses (UV damage is REAL).  

It is, however, smart to minimize or eliminate blue light exposure for 1-2 hours prior to bedtime.  So, keep those blue light glasses for the end of the day when you are reading on your iPad or watching tv in bed.  Let that melatonin flow so you can get some good rest!