I remember the days of staring at my laptop while sitting in a windowless room, under the fluorescent lights of Strozier Library at Florida State University. Studying, I’d try desperately to ingest and process information for hours and then I’d hit a wall and with dry, irritated eyes, I’d pack it up and head home to try to get some sleep. Despite being tired, I struggled to fall asleep because I felt wired from my library time. Does this bring back any memories for you?
Fourteen years later (how am I this old already?), I recognize that all that time at Strozier, I was being subject to junk light that affected my sleep and possibly, my health. These days, I spend more time in front of screens but I protect my eyes by implementing lifestyle choices to mitigate potential disruption and damage.
According to Harvard Medical School, blue light can affect your sleep and possibly cause disease by disrupting the secretion of melatonin- a hormone that influences circadian rhythms.
A study from the International Journal of Opthamology found that “high energy blue light passes through the cornea and lens to the retina causing diseases such as dry eye, cataract, age-related macular degeneration, even stimulating the brain, inhibiting melatonin secretion, and enhancing adrenocortical hormone production, which will destroy the hormonal balance and directly affect sleep quality.”
A recent study from the University of Toledo found that overexposure to blue light (like that from LED screens found in our digital devices) can lead to macular degeneration in the eyes over time, and macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness.
Children’s eyes are more susceptible to damage because they’re still developing. Also, access to iPads and other blue screens are a generally new thing for kids so long term effects are unknown at this point. We try to incorporate a lot of outside with our young kids in order to expose them to bright, natural sunlight (and vitamin D!) during the day but they do also get screen time. When they are in front of screens, we filter out blue light by having them wear their “iPad glasses.”
Regardless of age, the good news is that as a result of the growing body of research, we’re now more aware of the effects of junk light and we can prevent damage by making lifestyle changes and using the tools at our disposal.
There are plenty of things you can do to limit your exposure to junk light and help your circadian rhythm. And great news? Most of them are free.
Here are some things ideas to consider:
- Expose yourself to bright light (natural sunlight if possible!) during the day. This will boost your mood and awareness, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
- Limit exposure to blue light, especially for prolonged periods of time. I wear blue light blocking glasses during my work day but I also make it a point to go outside after periods of intense, screen-based work. This gives my eyes and my body a break.
- Avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed. In full transparency, I scroll through my phone basically until I fall asleep. I know it’s a bad habit but I mitigate it by wearing glasses that block 100% of blue light. I wear the TrueDark Sunset Fairlanes and they’re my new magic sleeping pill.
- Add a blue light filter to your phone. On your iPhone, go to Settings –> General –> Accessibility –> Display Accommodations. Here, you will find “Color Filters” option. Select it and maximize redness.
- For your kids, limit screen time when possible but filter out blue light using glasses and/or filters. In the picture above, my son is wearing the Superhero Daylights and my Daughter is wearing the Printed Daylights.
- Go to sleep in a dark room. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 36% of parents and 34% of children leave an electronic device such as a television or computer on in their room while sleeping. (I used to do this!).
- Swap your lightbulbs to ones that can change color and change them to red as you near bed time.
- Go camping! From WebMD: A recent study by University of Colorado-Boulder researchers found that as little as 48 hours spent in the woods, with no artificial light at night and as much as 13 times more natural light by day, prompted campers to shift into nighttime physiology (signaled by a rise in melatonin) 1.4 hours earlier. They also fell asleep earlier than others who didn’t go camping and were less groggy Monday morning.
If you’re looking for a pair of blue light blocking glasses I recommend TrueDark. You can use code wellnessjovi for 10% off your purchase. Shown below are the Twilights Fairlane, Daywalkers Pro and Daywalker Tortise Pro.