“We’re the only species smart enough to create artificial light but stupid enough to live under it”
-Dr. Jack Kruse, Neurosurgeon and Photobiology Expert
It wasn’t until I heard this quote that I really started to take a deep dive into the impacts of artificial light (notably harmful blue light) on human health. In today’s world we tend to focus mainly on diet and exercise as the primary pillars of health. Although these are clearly important, the electromagnetic environment that we are exposed to, in particular our light environment, has a profound impact on our health. In my opinion, the light signals we provide to our body are just as important as the food we eat. As the amount of artificial light we are exposed to continues to increase, we must educate ourselves and take steps to protect ourselves.
What is Blue Light?
Blue light is the primary spectrum of light present in technology, especially LED lights which includes basically all screens and most modern lighting. For the nerds out there, blue light is a spectrum of wavelengths between around 400-495nm (nanometers). It is important to make the distinction that not all blue light is bad! It’s not fair to paint “blue” as a bad guy, it’s just a colour after all!
Blue light is naturally found in the sun and is present primarily during the sunrise and midday when the sun is highest. It is always accompanied by red and infrared light as well as other spectra of light, in other words there is no such thing as isolated blue light in nature. Contrary to the sun, harmful blue light from technology is present at all hours in our society and it almost never contains an appropriate amount of red and infrared light to balance it out. I like to think of this isolated blue light as junk light, similar to when we extract sugar from a whole food to create junk food. Once we start isolating things from nature, we disrupt the natural balance of our body and our health declines.
Blue Light’s Effect on Our Body
- Stimulation – blue light is naturally present during the day to keep your body awake, alert and performing daytime functions. It boosts your stress hormone cortisol to help get you out of bed in the morning. Chronic overstimulation from artificial blue light can lead to issues long term.
- Eye Damage- excessive isolated blue light exposure increases oxidative stress damaging retinal cells in the eye contributing to dry/sore eyes, macular degeneration, cataracts and potentially ocular cancers
- Skin Aging – similar processes occur in skin cells contributing to “photoaging” and other potential skin issues
- Increase in Blood Sugar – as a mild “stimulant” blue light has the ability to raise your blood sugar totally independent of what you eat!
- Circadian Rhythm Disruption – this is perhaps the biggest issue with exposure to blue light especially at night. Blue light suppresses melatonin production and release meaning it totally destroys your sleep quality. Melatonin is the body’s ultimate repair hormone protecting and regenerating your cells and mitochondria when you sleep.
In a nutshell, excessive exposure to blue light causes damage to our body while simultaneously suppressing our most powerful repair mechanism. Not a great combo….
Fear not there are many ways to take control over our light environment!
How to Reduce the Damaging Effects of Blue Light
Lucky for us, the sun always has the perfect balance of light spectra at the right time to give us exactly what our body needs. Go outside first thing in the morning to kickstart your circadian rhythm and get outside as much as you can throughout the day. Remember that blue light from the sun is always accompanied by red and infrared light which counteract many of the damaging effects of blue light.
Use a Blue Light Phone Filter
Check out our recent post on @naturoacademy to change the settings on your phone to reduce the amount of blue light present (it’s more than just nightshift). I recommend keeping these filters on all day but it is especially important at night.
Use a Computer Screen Filter
For your computer screen download F.lux to filter out blue light.
Change your Lighting Environment
During the day, avoid using LED lights when possible and opt for natural light. Opening a window is ideal because even glass filters out most of the red, infrared and UV light from the sun leaving a high proportion of blue light.
At night after the sun sets, the best option is to use candles as your only source of light. Another option is to use a red LED bulb or pink salt lamp. This is very important at night because even small amounts of blue light confuse your body into thinking it’s still daytime preventing melatonin release.
Get a Pair of NaturoBlocks Blue Blocking Glasses!
This is one of the simplest yet most effective health investments you can make. NaturoBlocks Daytime Screen glasses block 88% of harmful blue light and specifically target the primary wavelength emitted from LEDs (455nm). Use these any time you are on screens or if you are stuck in a suboptimal lighting environment during the day. Don’t cheap out! Most “blue blockers” fail to block the wavelengths emitted from screens and only block 3-9% of blue light.
At night if you are exposed to any blue light, use a pair of nighttime glasses that block all of the blue and part of the green spectrum. NaturoBlocks Nighttime Sleep glasses (coming soon!) block 100% of 400-550nm which is required to maximize your melatonin.
Use code WELLNSTRONG at checkout for 10% off!
Don’t forget that your light environment is just as important as nutrition, exercise and any other foundation of health. Always opt for natural light, you can’t outsmart nature!