With computers being so integral to modern life, it can be too easy to hear about certain drawbacks—like the purported impacts of blue light—and discount them as little more than a way for companies to sell things that nobody really needs. While we aren’t going to speak to all these presumed drawbacks, we did want to spend some time discussing blue light and how it could impact your health (and how to help keep it from doing so).
While we aren’t going to go into much detail, it will help to explain the science behind these claims. Light is much more complicated than one would assume. What we see as visible light is actually the combination of various kinds of rays.
One of these rays, blue light rays, offer the highest energy levels and the shortest wavelengths out of them. While natural light contains these rays, so does the technology that we surround ourselves with at all hours—LED and fluorescent lighting, television screens, and the displays from all the devices we spend hours using.
Now, the human eye is pretty good at filtering out certain types of light rays… ultraviolet light being a good example. Blue light, on the other hand, gets a clear shot straight to the cornea.
This can be seen as too much of a good thing. Blue light has been shown to help improve various cognitive functions like alertness and memory while also helping the body’s wakefulness and sleep patterns to regulate. However, it has also been linked to some serious issues like eye strain and macular degeneration.
Let’s dive into history for a moment. For most of the time that we’ve been on this planet as a species, sunlight and other naturally occurring forms of light were the only source we had. It wasn’t until the incandescent light’s invention that another option was available—but we have certainly made up for lost time, surrounding ourselves with such light sources almost constantly.
As a result, we are exposed to far more blue light than our bodies are adjusted to. This is only exacerbated by the fact that newer light sources cast off far more blue light than the old bulbs did.
A few experiments have shown how much of an impact these differences have made. A study by Harvard once concluded that these increases in blue light exposure can have a drastic effect on the human body’s melatonin levels and thereby shift back the body’s circadian rhythms—particularly in comparison to other wavelengths of light.
This ultimately leads to decreased sleep, as well as an increased risk of developing various complications, like depression, diabetes, and cardiovascular issues.
Fortunately, we now understand how much blue light can interfere with proper sleep, and so can recommend a few best practices to help to minimize its impacts:
Many of our devices will also have some preventative measures built into their settings. When using a device that runs Windows 10, click into the Start menu and pull up your Settings. Once there, navigate to System, Display, and Night Light Settings. You can then have your device reduce the blue light it kicks out by applying a Schedule. This schedule can be set to follow a custom time or default to a Sunset to Sunrise option.
MacOS offers Night Shift, which can be accessed by entering your System Preferences and going into the Displays section.
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