With the prevalence of smartphones and screens, blue light has started to find its place as eye health enemy number one. Blue light is associated with some notable health drawbacks and can even disrupt our internal body clock, A.K.A. our circadian rhythm. However, blue light is not exactly avoidable, as it exists in more places than just our phone screens. As a result, it is important to find healthy ways to manage blue light.
Your eyes have several natural ways to protect against blue light, and we can either work with them or against them, depending on our habits. Here at iwi life, we have broken down some helpful ways to support that process.
What Is Blue Light?
In its simplest terms, blue light is a major part of the light we can see with the naked eye, including sunlight, light from screens and devices, and even LED light! As you may have guessed, "blue light" isn't necessarily the color blue. It is any light in the electromagnetic spectrum that resides in the range from 400-500nm. Blue light has shorter wavelengths than other colors on the spectrum, giving it a greater ability to penetrate your eye and reach the retina.
This color of light has become an important topic of discussion lately as electronic screens and LEDs are more and more prevalent in our home and work spaces. With the rise of these two technologies, medical experts have started to raise concerns about the impact of blue light on our eyes and health.
Blue light is not all bad and plays an important role in our biology. In fact, the most significant source of blue light is the sun, and we can’t turn that off. The blue light from the sun significantly impacts our circadian rhythm, our body’s internal sense of time of day. The light improves our attention, boosts our reaction time, and can even support a positive mood.
Of course, some of these effects are not always positive. Blue light from screens can tell the brain to stay alert and awake, even when we do not want to be, negatively impacting our circadian rhythm. Extensive amounts of blue light can also cause eye strain, dry eyes, affect your vision, and lead to headaches.
Just as blue light is natural, our body also has natural ways to protect against it, and it does so with the help of important vitamins and nutrients. With the right habits, you can provide your eyes with the support they need against blue light.
What Are the Benefits of Protecting Against Blue Light?
Although blue light is a natural part of life, too much blue light can lead to significant health consequences. Light plays an important role in how our brains respond to the environment, but limitations are helpful. Protecting your eyes against blue light can help you:
- Sleep better
- Balance your circadian rhythm
- Maintain the physical health of your eyes
Poor sleep has been linked to a range of health issues, so avoiding blue light can be a proactive way to promote your overall health.
How Can I Protect My Eyes From Blue Light?
From your daily nutrition to your lifestyle habits, there are several ways you can protect your eyes from blue light.
1. Minimize Screen Time
The best way to protect your eyes from blue light is to minimize your exposure. By reducing time in front of a screen, you can avoid overexposure to blue light. It is a good idea to minimize screen time throughout the day to avoid eye strain, but it is even more important at night.
Try to stay away from your phone, computer, and TV for at least two hours before bed. Steering clear from screens at night can limit any disruptions to your body’s melatonin production and make it easier to fall asleep.
Some devices have a special setting that minimizes the amount of blue light emitted by the screen. You can also find special filters that you can place directly in front of your computer screen if you need to spend more time on your electronics. To avoid eye strain, you can also practice taking 20 seconds to look at an object at least 20 feet away every 20 minutes.
2. Use Special Eyewear
In some instances, you cannot completely stay away from screens. For example, if you have a job requiring you to work in front of a computer or at night, limiting your blue light exposure can be hard.
Fortunately, for these cases, you can provide your eyes with some extra support by using special eyewear. Sunglasses filter out blue light in addition to UV rays, but they are not always practical for wearing indoors. However, eyeglasses can be fitted with a blue light filter, making for an easy way to provide your eyes with extra protection.
If you wear prescription glasses, talk to your optometrist about adding a blue light filter to the lens. Whether you are looking for prescription or non-prescription glasses, look closely at your options — some glasses may filter out other colors, making it harder to see.
If you are interested in trying this option, don’t worry — you won’t draw too much attention, as blue-light filtering glasses look just like standard glasses.
If you don't wear corrective lenses, you can still wear non-prescription blue light protection glasses during screen time. These are inexpensive and widely available. Keep a pair next to your computer to remind yourself of this smart habit.
3. Control Your Nighttime Lighting
Just as you should be mindful of your screen time at night, you should also be mindful of your exposure to other forms of blue light. Standard incandescent bulbs emit some blue light, but even more is emitted by LED lights.
Although LED lighting is more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly, it does not do too many favors for your sleep pattern. If you are the type to sleep with a night light, you may be at risk for certain negative health effects as it can make your sleep less restful.
A less-disruptive alternative is to use red lights, which have less of an impact on your circadian rhythm and melatonin production, allowing you to sleep better. If you are a night owl, you can also benefit from going to bed earlier, allowing you to spend less time with blue light at night and wake up with the sun in the morning.
4. Incorporate Omega-3s
Nutrition also plays an important role in protecting your eyes from blue light, as the right nutrients can positively impact your eyes’ natural light filter. One example is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid known as omega-3s.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of omega-3, is found in high concentrations in tissue in the eye, especially in the retina. DHA is said to have a supportive role in the retina. DHA may play a role in protecting the retina against light-related damage and oxidation. A diet rich in DHA can help maintain retinal health and support overall healthy eyes and vision as you age.
You can incorporate omega-3 into your diet by eating fatty, oily fish like mackerel, sardines, tuna, and salmon. Some people prefer to obtain their omega-3s from supplements like krill or fish oil.
On the other hand, if you prefer to stay away from fish for dietary reasons or your personal preferences, you can also get omega-3s from algae. Algae-based supplements are great for anyone on a plant-based diet and have no fishy aftertaste.
5. Take Lutein
Lutein is a type of carotenoid found in plants that helps to protect them from sunlight and provides a special pigment. For example, lutein is responsible for the yellow-orange color in marigold flowers. This pigment can have surprising benefits for your eye health and the eye’s response to blue light.
Lutein is naturally found in the retina and helps block the passage of blue light into the retina. Too much blue light can cause the oxidation of the cells and tissues in the eye. This pigment is also a powerful antioxidant, helping to protect against free radicals in the body, which can cause oxidation and premature aging in cells.
As a result, lutein can help maintain your overall eye health and support healthy vision over time. Supplements with lutein can help provide your eyes with that extra support.
Protect Your Eyes Against Blue Light
You can take several steps to protect your eyes against blue light, and none of them are mutually exclusive. By combining these habits, you can set yourself up for better sleep and even a more positive mental outlook.
At iwi life, we are all about supporting your overall health and wellness however we can, which is why we provide easily accessible nutrition through our family of omega-3 supplements. Our eye supplement is rich with omega-3 fatty acids and marigold-extract lutein, providing your eyes with that extra support.
Blue light has a dark side | Harvard Health
Protecting Your Eyes from Blue Light | Optometrists.org
Blue Light – Lutein and Zeaxanthin for Eye Health | Nutri-facts.org