We are living in a glowing age of information – literally. We are constantly bathed in light from a barrage of sources – phones, watches, computer screens, TVs, fitness trackers – you name it, and most anything with a screen or digital output has a component light in the blue spectrum. As technology brings smarter devices into our lives, our awareness of the potential detrimental effects on the human body has grown. Artificial blue light has been shown to disrupt our natural sleep patterns. According to recent studies, sleep disorders contribute to multiple health ailments – from Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart disease, and clinical depression. The dangers are real, but there’s also a lot of misinformation that paints blue light as the enemy. The key is all in the timing.
When Blue Light is the Good Guy
We actually need blue light. It is an important part of how our biological time-clock functions; it controls our Circadian Rhythm, which is in charge of our sleep/wake cycle. Blue light entering the eye in the morning and throughout the day suppresses our body’s production of Melatonin and increases the production of Serotonin and Dopamine. This allows us to be alert during the day. Blue light is in league with the blue sky and the high angle of the sun, which is mimicked by the overhead lighting in most offices. We need sources of blue light during the day, as many of us spend most of our waking hours in the built environment where access to natural daylight is often limited.
When Blue Light Is the Bad Guy
As the sun sets, the angle of light into our eye decreases and the ‘color’ of the light shifts from blue to a warmer amber color. This shift increases the production of Melatonin in the body. This is the body’s natural sleep aide, helping you fall asleep and stay asleep. Blue light at night, even for a millisecond, resets the body’s internal clock and disrupts all these processes. Prolonged exposure to blue light right before bedtime prohibits your body from performing normal brain and body functions that keep us healthy. Studies have shown significant negative health impacts with exposure to blue light after 8 p.m. It has been linked to higher incidences of cancer in shift workers and greater instances of confusion and disorientation in those affected with Alzheimer’s.