On average, American adults experience about 10.5 hours of screen time a day via cell phones, tablets, televisions, and computer screens and other devices. Is all of this screen time affecting our eyes, brains, and bodies?
Light is made up of electromagnetic particles. These particles get around by traveling in waves and as they travel, they emit energy. As a rule, a shorter wavelength means more energy will be emitted.
Unlike like the longer kinds of light that are visible to the human eye, many of the varieties of light with shorter wavelengths aren’t visible to the human eye and are sometimes categorized as harmful light.
Unfortunately, blue light falls into this second category. Spending long periods of time starring at your phone’s screen in the same category as glancing up and getting too much direct sunlight.
As people spend more time on their blue light-emitting devices, members of the scientific and medical communities have raised concerns about the possible long-term effects of this exposure on both adults and children.
A growing body of research has suggested that the answer to this question may be “yes.” New studies on the potential hazards of infrared, along with the blue glow emitted from our device screens and light bulbs, show that exposure really may lead to skin damage and accelerated aging.
In a recent study conducted by the Harvard Medical Center, researchers compared the effects of blue light exposure to those of other kinds of light on adults. The results showed that participants who were exposed to blue light were twice as likely to experience lower/suppressed melatonin levels and experience shifts in their circadian rhythms (two key components in how our body’s manage sleep). These two of many potential effects of prolonged blue light exposure.
As blue light enters the eye, it passes through the cornea and reaches the retina, one of the most sensitive and important parts of the eye at which point it has the ability to cause strain, fatigue, and induce premature aging.
Among long-term effects, two of the most common categories of eye strain that can be induced by blue light are:
Digital Eyestrain – Typically manifests as soreness, irritation, and difficulty focusing.
Retina Damage – Type of macular degeneration most commonly associated with age.
To practice caution with your devices, avoid close contact with your face and wearing a headset or using Bluetooth. Perhaps the bigger concern is the HEV generated by LED and compact fluorescent bulbs (those spiral-y ones) likely found inside your home or office. To compare it to your computer, one hour of exposure to an LED bulb is equal to 15 minutes of sunlight. This radiation could aggravate symptoms in people who already suffer from skin conditions that make them exceptionally sensitive to light.
The good news is this: there isn’t conclusive evidence or reports (though yes, new HEV studies are being published frequently). Meaning, though there are studies that prove blue light and its damage to your skin barrier, you can totally prevent this by doing the following:
Limiting your device usage to just a couple of hours and doing so in infrequent spurts.
Until we can really quantify how much exposure we get, at the very least we want to use antioxidants so we have a layer of defense against whatever stressors are coming our way. Using broad-spectrum mineral sunscreens with an antioxidant is our first line of skin defense. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can also absorb the energy from ultraviolet (UV) light.
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