Blue light: Friend or Foe?

Blue light: Friend or Foe?

Blue light can be your best friend in small doses but can also be your worst enemy. High levels of blue light have been found to offset limited motivation and improve decision-making skills and productivity in short bursts.

Think of it like a morning walk, where a short burst of sunshine helps you to feel awake and alert. But if we use screens late at night, are we exposing ourselves to the same blue light that makes us feel alert and stops us from feeling tired and ready to go to sleep? In short, yes! We take a look at how blue light helps and hinders our lives in the modern world. But first, let’s understand blue light a little better…

What is Blue Light?

There are different types of energy in the world that travel in waves. For example, sound waves carry energy as vibrations in the air and move our eardrums. Ocean waves travel through the water and carry a tremendous amount of force in them that is released when they hit an object, like the beach. The size and length of waves, whether in an ocean or the air as light or sound waves, determines how they impact us.

blue light graph

Radios, televisions and mobile phones use a type of electromagnetic wave to work. We can’t see those waves, but we can see natural light waves - like colour. Light travels in waves too and is made up of a spectrum of colours. When it hits our eyes and skin, it transmits its energy to those structures. Of the various colours, blue light has one of the shortest wavelengths and carries the most energy in it. Just like ultraviolet light can damage our skin, blue light can cause damage to our eyes. It can even change our hormones and energy levels! Yikes, we know!

How Does Blue Light Exposure Affect Your Health?

The energy of short-wave ultraviolet light and blue light, in large amounts, can cause eye damage such as cataracts, eyestrain and possibly even macular damage. More research is needed, but it is well accepted that minimising your exposure to short wave light can protect your eyes from damage. Imagine spending all day in front of the sun, you wouldn’t go without sunglasses, would you? Using blue light screens filters on your device is an easy way to protect both your eyes and skin. Say hello to fresher feeling eyes and goodbye to premature ageing!

In addition to affecting the eyes, blue light has also been shown to stimulate the brain and change its hormone levels. During the day, blue light increases attention and energy levels, but at night, it can stimulate your brain in a way that lowers your level of the sleep hormone, melatonin. This can result in difficulty sleeping and leave you feeling rather restless when you should be nodding off.

Blue Light and Melatonin

In addition to a good night’s sleep, here are five reasons that melatonin is so important to your health. It’s an impressive hormone!

It’s a possible treatment for neurological issues - it acts as an antioxidant and may protect the brain from disease. Melatonin is low in patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease - so it’s easy to see the correlation. Increased levels are linked to cancer survival rates. One study found a 34% reduction in the risk of death in cancer patients taking melatonin. Increased levels of melatonin have been shown to protect the brain from stroke damage. Taking melatonin supplements has also been found to reduce the severity of migraines by 50% in over ⅔ of patients in a study group. And finally, a higher level of melatonin is associated with a longer duration of sleep as well as a better quality of sleep. Literally, the dream.

Remember, melatonin is reduced by blue light, especially night-time viewing. So, working on computers, phones or watching TV in the evening can decrease your levels of melatonin and interfere with your sleep. Poor quality sleep has been linked to numerous health issues including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. It has even been linked to a shortened life expectancy - so it’s safe to say it’s pretty important.

Blue Light and Cortisol

Other studies document the effects of blue light on another important hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is generally released in the morning, stimulated by the light of day. It wakes us up, makes us hungry and increases our blood sugar levels, getting us ready for an active day. It’s like our cup of coffee in the morning!

Unfortunately, the body gets confused with evening light, specifically blue light from devices, and will release cortisol when our bodies should be winding down, not gearing up. As a result, cortisol levels rise and lead to increased blood sugar, weight gain, high blood pressure, loss of bone density and other numerous negative health effects.

Cortisol has been called the “stress hormone.” Some stress is good, it keeps us alert, awake and ready for action! But, when artificial light increases the amount of cortisol and decreases the amount of melatonin, things can get out of balance! Screen protectors can help prevent this. Here are some of the results of chronic, excess cortisol on the body:

  • Depression
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Lowered Immune Response
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Migraines
  • Hostility
  • Acid Reflux Disease

How Can You Protect Yourself From the Effects of Excess Blue Light Exposure?

If you are spending time working on computers and phones, it’s important to minimise exposure to blue light. But how? Fortunately, there are several strategies that can help. The most common is to change the blue light coming from your device by filtering it through a screen designed to absorb it and reduce its effect on melatonin and cortisol as well - as the damage it can cause to the eyes. 

While these devices do offer some solutions, in the form of Night Shift - they may turn your screen an orange colour in an attempt to cloud blue light. Unless orange is your favourite colour, this may prevent you from protecting your eyes during the day, as you’re likely to keep it off. Applying anti-blue light screen protectors to your devices is a simple solution! With Ocushield, you can filter harmful blue light for fresher feeling eyes & improved sleep after screen use!