BLOG 116: IS BLUE LIGHT FROM SCREENS DAMAGING AND AGEING YOUR EYES?Dec 14, 2021
Today’s blog post is all about eye health, something I know many of us have struggled with during the pandemic.
We’re all spending a lot more time in front of screens, which can lead to eye strain, disrupt our sleep, and leave us feeling stressed and tired. So, I wanted to take some time to look at how the blue light from our devices affects our eye health, both inside and out.
I recently welcomed an expert in this area onto the Face Yoga Expert Podcast. Dhruvin Patel is a qualified optometrist and the founder of Ocushield, a company that makes products to help us all protect our eye health by reducing the amount of blue light we’re exposed to every day.
Dhruvin had some brilliant tips to share on how we can all take care of our eyes and manage our blue light exposure. You can catch up with the full podcast episode here.
As well as protecting and maintaining our eye health, minimising how much blue light we expose ourselves to helps us to sleep better and even reduces lines and wrinkles.
WHAT IS BLUE LIGHT?
We hear blue light talked about a lot, but what is it and where does it come from?
You may have learnt about the electromagnetic spectrum at school. It’s a whole range of different wavelengths of electromagnetic energy and it is measured in nanometers.
At the lower end, 0-400 nanometers, we find UV light. This is the kind of light that sunglasses protect our eyes from. Between 400 and 700 nanometers is the visible light spectrum – the light we can consciously perceive with our eyes. Then, above that are infrared, microwaves, radio waves, etc.
We’re interested in the bit in the middle – the visible light spectrum. More specifically, we’re talking about the lower end of the range, between 400 to 500 nanometers. This is what we refer to as blue light.
We usually hear about it in connection with screens, but blue light comes from many different sources. As well as our devices, we are exposed to it in sunlight and from artificial lights such as lamps and lightbulbs.
In fact, I was surprised to find out from Dhurvin that our lamps and other electric lights emit more blue light than our screens do. However, this light isn’t as much of a problem for our eyes as the light from our devices since we rarely look directly at it.
WHAT PROBLEMS DOES BLUE LIGHT CAUSE?
Dhruvin explained that blue light has a shorter wavelength and carries a lot of energy. It can impact our health in three main ways:
1. Eye Health
One of the most obvious ways blue light affects us is how it impacts our vision. Over time, as we are frequently exposed to blue light, it can start to cause visual stress. This means our eyes become tired and strained. We might have issues focusing properly, or find that everything looks blurry, even though we normally have good vision.
Long-term, excessive blue light exposure can even contribute to eye diseases such as macular degeneration, a condition where people start to lose their central vision.
Another way that blue light impacts our health is the effect it has on our sleep.
In the evenings, our bodies start to produce a hormone called melatonin, which tells us it is time to wind down and get ready to sleep. This melatonin production is triggered by cells in our eyes that detect blue light and send a signal to our brains. When there is a lot of blue light, we produce less melatonin.
In the old days, before artificial lights, this system worked very well. When the sun was up, our eyes would detect blue light and we would feel awake. When the sun went down, people lit their homes with candles, which don’t emit blue light, so they would easily be able to drop off to sleep.
Now, however, we use artificial lights and spend our evenings on screens, which means our bodies don’t produce as much melatonin in the evenings. This can disrupt our sleep patterns.
Sleep is so important to our overall health and wellbeing. When we don’t sleep well, it affects our mood, productivity, health, and even appetite. So, the impact of blue light on our sleep can have a knock-on effect on many different areas of our life.
3. Skin Health
The third way that blue light affects us is by damaging our skin. New research from Unilever has shown that 30 hours of exposure to blue light can increase skin inflammation by up to 40%, which is a massive amount.
This inflammation reduces the amount of collagen and elastin in our skin, leading to a loss of elasticity and plumpness. It makes us more prone to lines and wrinkles, especially around the eye area.
HOW CAN YOU REDUCE BLUE LIGHT EXPOSURE AND PROTECT YOUR EYE HEALTH?
The good news is that there are a lot of small, simple habits you can adopt to reduce how much blue light you are exposed to daily.
Cut Down Screentime
One of the most obvious is simply cutting down on how much time you spend using your devices. I know this is easier said than done for many of us! But reducing screen time, especially in the evening, will help to protect your eye health and give you a better night’s sleep.
Choose Daytime Activities Wisely
What we get up to in the daytime can also help to protect our natural circadian rhythms, meaning we find it easier to sleep well at night. One of my non-negotiable wellness habits, for example, is going out for a walk every day.
As well as getting our bodies moving, walking exposes us to natural light and fresh air, which can help us sleep better.
Reduce the Intensity of the Light
Another easy change is to reduce the intensity of the blue light you are exposed to. Most devices will let you turn down the brightness of the screen. You can also sit further away – the distance makes a big difference to how intense the blue light is when it reaches your eyes.
Dhurvin recommends keeping screens at least an arm’s length away from you whenever you can. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but the further away you have the screen, the better.
Adapt the Lighting Around You
You can also pay attention to the lighting in your home. Although this light won’t impact your eyes as much, since you aren’t looking at it directly, it can still affect your sleep. It is best to adapt the lighting according to the time of day and your activity.
One of the products Dhurvin offers through Ocushield is a lamp with different light settings. This means you can set it to a brighter, whiter light first thing in the morning to help you wake up. Later in the day, you can opt for a warmer light that is low in blue light, letting your body know it is time to wind down ready for sleep.
Dhurvin also suggests the Philips Hue range, which does a similar thing for your overhead or wall lights.
Blink More and Take Breaks
If you work a lot with screens, you know that dry, itchy feeling that your eyes get at the end of the day. Dhurvin says this happens because we blink a lot less when we look at screens – about 3 times a minute. We’re supposed to blink 18-20 times a minute to keep our eyes lubricated and healthy.
It sounds simple but sticking a post-it note to your computer screen that says “blink” can be a great reminder to blink more often and keep your eyes from drying out.
You can also take regular screen breaks. Dhurvin says he works in 45-minute stints. This gives your eyes a rest and you’ll blink more when you are away from the screen.
Get Plenty of Omega-3
Another tip to avoid dryness and keep your eyes healthy is to make sure you are getting enough Omega-3 in your diet. Oily fish is a great source of Omega-3, but vegetarians and vegans can opt for algae instead to up their levels.
Supplements are also a good way to increase the amount of Omega-3 you get. Many of us don’t eat enough of the right foods to get sufficient levels from our diets alone.
Another common eye issue is twitching in the muscles around the eyes. Most of us will have experienced this at one time or another.
Dhurvin says that twitching is rarely a sign of a serious issue. But it is a sign that we are stressed and tired. Our bodies are telling us that we need to slow down, get more rest, and concentrate on eating well.
Twitching will normally go away within a few days. But if it continues for several weeks and you have other symptoms, you should consult a medical professional, just in case it is a sign of something more serious.
Use Blue Light Blockers
Unfortunately, our busy modern lives mean we can’t avoid screens altogether. But you can reduce the impact of screens by using products that block blue light. Ocushield offers screen protectors and glasses that are medically rated and filter out harmful blue light.
Dhurvin is also giving you 10% off Oculshield’s products. Just use the code FACEYOGA when you check out to apply the discount.
GET MORE WELLNESS TIPS
Dhurvin is just one of the fantastic guests who has joined me on the Face Yoga Expert Podcast, so do take some time to explore other episodes and learn more tips to support you on your wellness journey.