Why You Should Start Blocking the Blue Light on Your Smartphone and Computer

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Why You Should Start Blocking the Blue Light on Your Smartphone and Computer
Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com. Source image © shutterstock.com (under license)

If you have kids, you know how difficult it is to separate them from their smart devices. However nowadays parents may resort to giving their small children (even infants!) smartphones or tablets as early as they are able to hold them. However, while this kind of activity may indeed improve motor skills, there are a lot of downsides as well. One of which is the result of being exposed to your gadget’s blue light.

During the day, blue light has many benefits: improving attention, reaction times, and mood; however, blue light can detrimentally affect your health at night when the body is supposed to rest and reboot. Because blue light is artificially-made, we are mostly exposed to it from lightbulbs and LED screens from smart gadgets, with the latter being arguably a human being’s biggest exposure to date. [1]

Why Is Blue Light Harmful?

According to Harvard Health Publishing, there are various studies that link exposure to blue light to various diseases, like cancer, diabetes, and even obesity. [1] Cancer, the scariest of the bunch, was linked to blue-light exposure in a study published in 2018 by a team part of the Barcelona Institute for Global Health. The study linked blue-light exposure (measured by satellite images of 11 Spanish regions) to an increased risk for two types of cancer: breast cancer and prostate cancer. With 4,000 respondents aged 20 to 85 in Spain, the study’s results showed that higher levels of blue-light increased a person’s risk by 1.5 and 2-fold for breast and prostate cancer respectively. [2]

Blue light also causes problems with body’s normal circadian rhythm. In 2011, a study by Fiqueiro found that blue light emissions from computer monitors caused a suppression of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the body’s sleep processes or the circadian rhythm. If your body has an imbalance of melatonin, you may have a harder time falling or staying asleep, which can detrimentally affect your immunity as well as your mental health. Similar results were seen in a study that focused on blue light from overhead lightbulbs also revealed that that kind of exposure also causes imbalances in melatonin and sleep disturbance. [3][4]

In another study in 2017, blue light was linked to a serious endocrine problem: diabetes. By 2015 an estimated 10 percent of the US population were affected by diabetes. An estimated over 30 million Americans were diabetics, with 23 million of that number being diagnosed. According to Russart and Nelson, night time exposure to blue light was linked to a disruption in the body’s natural endocrine processes, causing weight gain and poor metabolic function. The study mentions that sleep disturbance causes problems with a hormone called leptin, which sends signals to the brain when you feel full. Problems with leptin can cause an increase in weight gain and therefore increase your risk for diabetes. [5][6][7]

How Much Light Is Bad For You?

Russart and Nelson cite that light as low as 5 lux (lux is the unit of measurement used for light) can disrupt your circadian rhythm. A television or smartphone emits about 40 lux of light at 12 inches away from your face. The moon emits roughly 2 lux. As much as possible, avoid using your gadgets before bed and try to sleep without the light on. Simple relaxation measures like a warm bath, aromatherapy, or massage before bedtime can help improve your sleep. If possible, try to leave two to three hours in between your bedtime and screen exposure. This can not only help your sleep better, but also reduce your exposure to blue light and improve your overall health. [7]

References:

[1] Harvard Health Publishing. Blue light has a dark side. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

[2] Barcelona Institute for Global Health. Study links night exposure to blue light with breast and prostate cancer. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-04/bifg-sln042518.php

[3] Fiqueiro, M., et. al. (2011). The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21552190

[4] Gooley, J., et. al. (2011). Exposure to Room Light before Bedtime Suppresses Melatonin Onset and Shortens Melatonin Duration in Humans. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/96/3/E463/2597236

[5] American Diabetes Association. Statistics About Diabetes. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/

[6] Doheny, K. Screen Light at Night—Distrupts Your Sleep, Worse for Your Health. https://www.endocrineweb.com/news/type-2-diabetes/59431-screen-light-night-bad-your-sleep-worse-your-health

[7] Russart, K. & R. Nelson (2017). Light at night as an environmental endocrine disruptor. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938417302743?via%3Dihub

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