Internet usage has increased significantly over the years. Hard to imagine that in 1995 only 16 million people were using the internet and now an estimated 4.9 billion in 2020. COVID increased internet shopping, googling and with so many people working from home there is more and more difficulty of just powering down and turning it off. Sleep issues are on the rise for a variety of reasons but one potential culprit is the blue light that computer/tablets/smartphone screens emit. Studies demonstrate that exposure of blue light prior to bed inhibits our bodies ability to produce melatonin which is responsible for helping us fall asleep.
Prior to electrical & digital age our source of blue light was from the sun. Approximately 1/3 of all visible light is in the blue light spectrum. Now we also get blue light from LED lights and fluorescent lights in addition to our technology. Blue light has many benefits:
- Boosts mood
- Increases alertness
- Helps memory and cognition
- During daylight hours it can help regulate circadian rhythm
- Important for growth and development of the eyes and vision
- Treatment of seasonal affective disorder which helps alleviate the lower mood associated with the dark days of winter.
However, too much blue light can cause some issues. Blue light scatters more easily than other visible light which means it is not as easily focused. When you are looking at computer screens or other digital devices the unfocused visual scatter reduces contrast contributing to eyestrain and some studies are suggesting that it can contribute to age related macular degeneration.
Signs of digital eyestrain include:
- Sore, dry, red eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Sore neck/shoulders
- Blurred vision
- Poor sleep
READ ON for 3 tips to help you manage blue light if you are on your computer all day or at night…..
- Use the 20-20-20 rule during the day. For every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This allows a break from the strain on the eyes caused by digital screens.
- Turn off all screens (TV, computer, phones, tablets) one hour prior to bed.
- Try blue light blocking glasses.
The Academy of Ophthalmology has not jumped on board with blue light glasses to do computer work. Many of you know I am also an ophthalmologist and did a lot of work with people who had low vision. Changing the color spectrums with tinted lenses often made a significant difference in how the individual could see. We used different tints for different eye conditions. Until recently blue light glasses were thought to be hype and marketing but a study published in October 2020 demonstrated that people who used blue light glasses before sleeping not only lead to a better night’s sleep but helped contribute to a better work day the following day. They also noticed an increase in task performance and work engagement during the day. Studies are also showing that blocking blue light helps the body release the much needed hormone Melatonin to help your body naturally fall asleep especially when used in the evening hours.
If you are on your computer all day long or using your technology in the evening/night hours then you might consider trying some blue light glasses and see how you feel. Even better, at night, unplug it all and just have a nice evening connecting to those in your household, reading a book (actually holding a real book), play games or take a walk. I’m sure you can find many other ways to unplug!
To Your Health,