March 20, 2017

Young tired businessman rubbing his eye

Natural Blue Light

Blue light is everywhere; natural and manmade (electronic devices) with sunlight being our main source of blue light exposure. Being outdoors during the day only enhances your exposure. Have you ever wondered why the sky is blue? Since blue light rays scatter easier than any other color of light rays we see the sky as blue!

Blue light exposure is essential for good health; it helps boosts alertness, helps memory and elevates mood. It also plays a crucial role in our production of melatonin, the hormone which regulates our sleep and wake cycles.

In 1980, Dr. A. J. Lewy, a psychiatrist working at the National Institutes of Mental Health, was the first to suggest Light Therapy to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or the winter blues. SAD is a form of depression that’s related to the changes in the seasons, usually beginning in the fall and continuing through winter. The light sources used in light therapy emit a bright white light that contains a significant amount of blue lights in an attempt to encourage our bodies to release the hormones we need to keep our health regulated.

Digital Blue Light

Blue light has many beneficial properties in its natural form, but too much blue light can be problematic especially when it’s being emitted from an electronic device; TV, computer, smart phone, tablet. Most of us spend a lot of time staring at digital screens; whether it’s the long hours in front of a computer for work, sending texts on your smart phone, playing games on a tablet, or relaxing and watching your favourite show at the end of a work day.

Too much digital blue light has been known to cause age-related macular degeneration. Blue light penetrates all the way to the retina and studies have shown that it can damage light sensitive cells in the retina. The macula is a small central area that controls visual acuity. If too much damage is done it can lead to permanent vision loss.

The blue light wave emitted from our devices are enriched, which in turn makes them more powerful than natural blue light. Since natural blue light is a big contributor to our melatonin production too much blue light right before bed causes our body to believe it is still day time, which inhibits our body to create melatonin and affects our sleep and wake cycles making it harder for us to fall asleep and in turn we experience a poorer quality of sleep.

Digital Eye Strain, the New Carpel Tunnel? (Maybe?!..)

Digital eye strain is a medical issue with symptoms that can affect work productivity and learning. The symptoms include blurry vision, difficulty focusing, headaches, dry and irritated eyes, and neck and back pain.

Digital eye strain not only affects adults, it affects children as well. Now a days children have more digital tools at their disposal. According to a Kaiser Foundation Study, done in 2010, children spend an average of 7 hours a day on electronic devices. Before age 10, children’s eyes are not fully developed, therefore too much blue light exposure is not a good thing. This a big reason for parents to monitor and limit daily screen times for their children. 

To help protect your own vision from digital eye strain you should start with an eye exam from your optometrist. Our clinics are able to have glasses made for you that are designed with coatings that will filter out a portion of the blue spectrum light.

Written by Dominique St. George