Not all light is created equal: An exposé on blue light

Many have discounted the validity of health concerns related to blue light, but a recent study conducted by Oregon State University says we should take them more seriously.

What is blue light?

Human beings can perceive a range of different lights. Our sun emits blue light as a part of this visible spectrum and plays a crucial role in regulating our physiological processes on a day-to-day basis. Blue light has especially gained attention in the health space due to its link with technological development. Human beings have become increasingly accustomed to blue light exposure at night thanks to the various tech devices we use, on top of the lighting from urban streetlights and household bulbs.

The good, the bad and the ugly

Recent conversations centered around the risks of modern life involve blue light —somewhere between urban myth and underground scientific knowledge. Exposure to blue light during the day can have positive effects like boosting attention, reaction times and mood.

However, studies suggest that the artificial light coming from our TVs, laptops, phones and lighting fixtures can be negative at night. In a recent study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University, prolonged exposure to blue light on a regular basis can affect your lifespan even if it’s not directly shining in your eyes. Specifically, the study found that blue wavelengths can damage brain cells and retinas.

While natural light is integral for the regulation of our circadian rhythms, it’s the prolonged exposure of artificial blue light that researchers are especially concerned about. Numerous studies have demonstrated how a disruption in someone’s circadian rhythm can cause an immediate impact on both mind and body, and health experts continue to advocate for the utmost importance of routine sleep/wake times that coincide with the earth’s 24-hour light/dark cycle.

Living with blue light

We are becoming more accustomed to the luxuries of modern life. We can watch a diverse range of media on one easy-to-use, illuminated platform. With all the convenience and advancement we have, it’s important to remind ourselves of our deeply-ingrained physiological mechanisms. The accessibility and entertainment our technology provides can make our lives a bit more convenient and amusing at the cost of respecting sleep hours that is crucial for us to function the next day. Remember, it’s important to mimic your exposure to lighting with that of your natural environment to minimize the risk of health implications in the long-run, especially when it comes to the effects of artificial blue light.

As more research on the impact of blue light surfaces, we wonder what the next big health innovation will be. Our level of light exposure at night is only a recent phenomenon, and the long-term implications are still unknown. The solution could be as simple as setting a reminder at sunset to turn your tech devices to “night mode.” Products like blue light-blocking glasses, computer screen filters and even topical blue light-blocking creams may offer a solution when you find yourself staring at a screen all day long.