With each day, it seems we have a new risk or threat to worry about. Lately, there’s been much talk about the dangers of blue light exposure and many products are available supposedly to remedy the problem. Wouldn’t you know it, but blue light can actually negatively impact your health and wellbeing. So, let’s discuss blue light exposure, and what you can do to address it.
What is Blue Light?
Let’s start off with some basic science: what we “see” as “light” is just what our minds perceive it to be, though we only perceive a fraction of light across the entire spectrum. However, one part of the spectrum — blue light rays — has the highest energy levels of the bunch, paired with the shortest wavelength. Blue light rays occur naturally in sunlight, and also come from a lot of indoor sources: LED and fluorescent lighting, electronics, televisions, computers, and the mobile devices we’re all so fond of.
Now, the human eye is naturally suited to help filter out certain types of light, ultraviolet light included. However, blue light isn’t included. So, while blue light in proper amounts can help improve some cognitive functions like alertness, memory, wakefulness and healthy amounts of sleep, it can also be a detrimental in excess, particularly in terms of contributing to eye strain and macular degeneration.
Where Our Devices Come In
Historically speaking, the sun and other natural forms of light had been the only ways humanity got any exposure at all to blue light for most of human history. It really wasn’t until the 19th century advent of incandescent lighting that there was another option.
However, as we’ve surrounded ourselves with more and more artificial light sources, we’ve exposed ourselves to more blue light than ever. In so doing, we’ve shifted the balance…. and it certainly doesn’t help that our modern lights contribute more blue light than any incandescent bulb ever could.
In terms of blue light’s impact, this could prove to be serious. Let’s consider what a Harvard study observed about blue light risk compared to other types of risks from light when exposed for the same period of time. After 6.5 hours of blue light exposure, enough melatonin (the hormone that dictates the body’s circadian sleep patterns) was suppressed to shift these circadian rhythms by 3 hours. In comparison, the same exposure to green light only caused a 1.5-hour shift — literally half of what the blue light did.
These effects can be compounded, not only decreasing sleep time, but also by increasing the risk of depression, diabetes and cardiovascular issues.
Fixing the Blue Light Problem
Clearly, blue light can be a real problem if it isn’t managed. Fortunately, there are simple ways to minimize its effects, like:
- Avoiding brighter screens within three hours of bedtime
- Making sure you’re getting plenty of exposure to other kinds of light to help regulate your circadian rhythms
- Using red lights over blue lights for nighttime lighting, helping to avoid melatonin suppression
- Investing in blue-light filtering glasses or time-controlled filtering apps
Fortunately, modern devices increasingly come with settings to help you accomplish some of these fixes.
In Windows, accessing your Settings and going to System > Display > Night Light Settings allows you to Schedule your device’s Night Light configuration, either based on Custom times or from Sunset to Sunrise.
Macs offer Night Shift, which is customizable from System Preferences > Displays > Night Shift.
Computerware is here to help you manage all of your IT challenges. For more assistance with your business’s technology, give us a call at (703) 821-8200 and find out what we have to offer.
Alan Edwards, CISM, is chief information officer at Computerware, Inc., in Vienna, Virginia.