You wake up in the morning. What is one of the first things you do? If you’re like the majority, you may check your phone or log on to your computer to check your email. This kind of stimulation, or even stimulation from the regular sunlight, is affecting our circadian rhythm, or as many people know it, our biological clocks.

Digital Eye Strain: What’s blue light got to do with it?

How much time a day do you spend looking at electronics? Whether it’s watching television, using our smartphones, reading on an e-reader, or operating our computers, a great deal of our time is spent hooked to a screen of some sort. And what does that screen omit? Light. So how does this affect our eyes? Even more so, how does this affect our sleep, and how are the two related? What do we do about it?

What is blue light?

Let’s start with the sort of light that is backlighting our electronic devices. It’s usually what’s called “blue light” because it’s considered on the blue end of the light spectrum. You’ll notice that if you turn off a light in a room, you can still easily see the screen because of how it is lit, but if your device isn’t backlit with blue light, you may need to turn on another light to see the screen (like some older versions of the Kindle, for example).

But it’s not just found in electronics. Blue light is natural also, and it’s present in regular sunlight.

So what’s wrong with the light? Well, studies have shown that it decreases the amount of melatonin that your body makes. Melatonin is the natural hormone that helps you fall asleep. Less melatonin makes it harder for you to fall asleep.

If you’ve ever been camping, you probably noticed how you got tired a little earlier than usual. Think back: where was the sun when that happened? Were your eyes stimulated by light? We’re guessing not—it’s not so easy to plug in a computer or smartphone out in the wilderness. Ever heard someone advise you not to watch too much television before going to sleep or to stare at your smartphone too long? That’s why, because the light is more likely to stimulate your eyes and keep you awake.

What can I do about it?

There is a lot you can do to protect your eyes against different types of light and to prevent digital strain. One way we’ve mentioned in the past is to use a full spectrum light. You can also download helpful apps which adjust the lighting of your computer or digital devices depending on the time of day, like f.lux or Twlight. New optical studies are also now showing that a specific type of glasses can help us change our routines for the better. Glasses with an orange-tint have been shown to block out blue light, which in turn, helps our bodies circadian rhythms get back on track easier. By clocking out the blue light from electronic devices, our eyes are less strained and our body is less likely to slow in its production of melatonin.

Where can I get a pair?

You don’t want to just invest in an inexpensive type of orange glasses that aren’t going to do much for your eyes. That would be a waste of money, time, and valuable sleeping time. We recommend getting in touch with your optician and asking his/her opinion. If you’re looking for advice on how to reduce digital eye strain and changes you can make in your daily life, please contact Dr. Silverman for a consultation.

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