Better Sleep and Better Days: Avoiding Blue Light at Night


The idea that light can actually be bad for our health isn’t actually as foreign to us as it may seem at first glance – we’re all acutely aware of the damage that the midday summer sun can cause if we don’t take precautions. Certain kinds of light at the lower end of the spectrum (closer to UV light) can have similarly negative effects on our health, but because the damage isn’t as easy to see as, say, a sunburn, we don’t notice it as readily.

This blue light is called High Energy Visible (HEV) light, and in excess it makes us irritable, unfocused, and tense. The vast majority of the blue HEV light we are exposed to comes from the sun, during the day, but many modern devices (TVs, smartphones, computers, etc.) also emit this same wavelength of light. Though exposure from devices makes up only a fraction of our total exposure to HEV light, it also confuses our bodies’ circadian rhythms, which regulate sleep.

Because we get most of our HEV exposure from the sun, the body uses it as a signal for when the day is starting to end. As the sun goes down, the body knows night is coming, and begins to produce more melatonin, making us tired and ready to sleep. When we artificially inflate our exposure to HEV light with technology, however, the body doesn’t realize the day is over, and continues suppressing melatonin production, leading to lost sleep and the body not growing naturally tired, but rather burning out from exhaustion. There’s also evidence that prolonged exposure to blue light from devices leads to long-term macular degeneration and eye strain.

In our interconnected world, though, the likelihood of us turning off our devices altogether is basically slim to none. That’s where healthy practices and tools like HEV-blocking glasses can come in. Many glasses makers now also produce varying strength blue-light blocker glasses, which filter out differing percentages of blue light depending on the time of day. These glasses come in both prescription and non-prescription variations, and can help decrease our overexposure to blue light.

Other healthy practices for avoiding excessive blue light exposure: avoiding using electronic devices in the hour before bed, turn on “night mode” filters that remove certain shades of blue light from your display at night, take breaks from viewing devices, and be sure to expose yourself to natural blue light during the day.

Devices are an inescapable part of modern life, but there are ways to use them while still striving for a better, healthier you: like all things, use in moderation and with proper safeguards is key!

Katie Lynn Sears