Should you care about the damage from blue light?

woman looking at screens with blue light

The damage from blue light is something that has been on everyone’s mind recently. Who doesn’t browse on their phone before going to sleep, or when they wake up? Checking out if anyone’s replied to their Facebook or Instagram post, or if a new article you’ve been waiting for has gone up?Mobile phones and tablets are an integral part of our lifestyle, 24/7, whether we like it or not. But is that blue light that your device emits really as bad as everyone says it is?

What is blue light?

Hang on, you say, what exactly is blue light? Glad you asked, because we’re here to give you the lowdown! Your eye is exposed to a whole bunch of different kinds of light rays throughout the day, from sunlight, to indoor light and even invisible types of light rays such as infra-red and ultra-violet!

Natural sunlight contains a whole variety of colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue and much more. Waves which are on the red side of the spectrum actually have longer wavelengths and less energy, while waves on the blue side of the spectrum have shorter wavelengths and more energy. Research on the subject has shown that exposure over time to blue light might cause serious long-term damage to our eyes!

The LED screens that most people have on their mobile devices emit a large amount of blue light, and coupled with the significant amount of time that people spend staring at these devices, you understand the worry over the damage from blue light! In general, the body uses blue light from the sun to regulate its circadian rhythm, and keep you awake when it’s daytime. In addition it boosts your mood and alertness and also helps with your memory.

However, the downside of blue light is that these short wavelengths, emitted from our digital screens, can flicker more than longer wavelengths, which can cause eyestrain, headaches and both mental and physical fatigue since our eyes don’t naturally have a filter for this kind of light.


Mobile phone screen with night sky

What does the research say?

There has been a great deal of research on the harmful effects of blue light, and researchers from Harvard University recently found that chronic exposure to blue light and night can reduce production of melatonin, which regulates sleep and can also lead to an increased risk for some types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression.

Furthermore, there’s lots of research that the damage from blue light can also include permanent damage to one’s eyes, from the killing of cells in our retinas to causing age-related macular degeneration and loss of sight. However, this research is still in its early stages and more is needed to figure out exactly how much natural and artificial blue light is too much for the retina.

On the other hand, very recent research from Manchester University has found that blue light before bedtime is not necessarily bad for our sleep patterns. The research claims that it might be actually better to use dim and cooler lights in the evening and bright, warmer lights during the day.

The body’s clock uses visual cues to determine when it should sleep and when it should be awake, and that by using softening colors one our devices could send our bodies mixed messages, as the changes in brightness are accompanies by colors that resemble the daytime.

So what can you do about it?

Clearly, there are two sides to the discussion, but if you’re still keen on using your device before hitting the sack and mitigating the damage from blue light, there are a few ways to make it safer:

  • You can use blue-blocking glasses at night, or alternatively, you can see if your device has a setting for ‘night-time mode’ or a way to turn off the blue light.
  • Expose yourself to a lot of bright light during the day, something that according to the Harvard researchers should boost your ability to sleep well at night and also increase daytime alertness.
  • Use dim red light for night lights, as it has the weakest wavelength and can’t really change your circadian rhythm too much.
  • Obviously, the best way is to simply not use your mobile device for a few hours before going to bed, though for most people, this is easier said than done!