Our digital devices such as our phones, desk and lap tops and over head fluorescent lighting are being studied for health and visual implications. Digital eyestrain is a medical issue with serious symptoms that can affect learning and work productivity. Symptoms of digital eyestrain, or computer vision syndrome, include blurry vision, difficulty focusing, dry and irritated eyes, headaches, neck and back pain. Digital eyestrain has overtaken carpal-tunnel syndrome as the number one computer-related complaint.
Digital eyestrain does not just affect adults. Children are also at risk for eyestrain due to their growing use of digital devices. Children today have more digital tools at their disposal than ever before – tablets, smart phones, e-readers, videogames are just among a few. According to a study by the Kaiser family Foundation, children and teenagers (ages 8-18) spend more than 7 hours a day consuming electronic media. Before age 10, children’s eyes are not fully developed. Parents should supervise and limit the amount of screen time their children are permitted.
Nearly 70% of adults who report regular usage of media devices experienced some symptoms of digital eyestrain, but many did nothing to lessen their discomfort mainly due to lack of knowledge.
In the modern age of technology it is not uncommon to come home after a long day at work or school and blow off steam by reading an e-book or watching television. Lately, however, scientists have been cautioning against using light-emitting devices before bed. Why? The light from our devices is haves a higher concentration of blue light than natural light. Blue light affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin more than any other wavelength. In other words, stressors that affect our circadian clocks, such as blue-light exposure, can have much more serious consequences than originally thought on our health because it affects our sleep.
What you can do
- Use dim red lights for night lights. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin.
- Avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed.
- If you work a night shift or use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses.
- Expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day, which will boost your ability to sleep at night, as well as your mood and alertness during daylight.
Blue Light has a Dark Side according to a Harvard review study.
Light at night is bad for your health, and exposure to blue light emitted by electronics and energy-efficient lightbulbs may be especially so.
Until the advent of artificial lighting, the sun was the major source of lighting, and people spent their evenings in (relative) darkness. Now, in much of the world, evenings are illuminated, and we take our easy access to all those lumens pretty much for granted.
But we may be paying a price for basking in all that light. At night, light throws the body’s biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack. Sleep suffers. Worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
But not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.
The health risks of night time light
Study after study has linked working the night shift and exposure to light at night to several types of cancer (breast, prostate), diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It’s not exactly clear why nighttime light exposure seems to be so bad for us. But we do know that exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms, and there’s some experimental evidence (it’s very preliminary) that lower melatonin levels might explain the association with cancer.
A Harvard study shed a little bit of light on the possible connection to diabetes and possibly obesity. The researchers put 10 people on a schedule that gradually shifted the timing of their circadian rhythms. Their blood sugar levels increased, throwing them into a prediabetic state, and levels of leptin, a hormone that leaves people feeling full after a meal, went down.
Less-blue light in our light bulbs?
If blue light does have adverse health effects, then environmental concerns, and the quest for energy-efficient lighting, could be at odds with personal health. Those curlicue compact fluorescent lightbulbs and LED lights are much more energy-efficient than the old-fashioned incandescent lightbulbs we grew up with. But they also tend to produce more blue light.
The physics of fluorescent lights can’t be changed, but coatings inside the bulbs can be so they produce a warmer, less blue light. LED lights are more efficient than fluorescent lights, but they also produce a fair amount of light in the blue spectrum. Richard Hansler, a light researcher at John Carroll University in Cleveland, notes that ordinary incandescent lights also produce some blue light, although less than most fluorescent lightbulbs.