The rise of screen use has raised a number of concerns, especially when it comes to eye health and the impacts of blue light on the eye. But what is blue light, and how much is it really to blame for the strain our daily screen activity is putting on our eyes?
What is blue light?
Blue light is just one wavelength of the visible light spectrum, which includes red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. There are plenty of wavelengths that exist beyond what we can see with the naked eye, but those in the rainbow — including blue — are visible without any assistance.
You don’t just get blue light from the screens in your life; blue light exists in all white light, which means you get plenty of it from the sun you’re exposed to every day, too.
Is blue light worrisome?
While it is true that under certain laboratory conditions, blue light damages samples of retinal cells, that’s only in a lab. It’s vastly different from how your retinal cells might interact with the same light waves outside of those conditions. Blue light can negatively impact your circadian rhythms — but so can other wavelengths in the light spectrum. Light, in general, helps trick your brain into thinking the sun is still up, so it doesn’t start producing melatonin (the sleep hormone) until much later.
Eye strain, on the other hand, is very real and can happen as a direct result of spending too much time staring at a screen. It has nothing to do with the blue light, though, and everything to do with the fact that you are exhausting your eyes by not looking away from a screen for long periods.
Reducing blue light
While blue light isn’t necessarily the villain here, you might find reducing it aids with eye strain. If you don’t want to invest in a pair of blue light glasses, here are some things you can do to reduce the levels your eyes are exposed to:
Move your screen farther away
Sometimes, it really is that simple. Experts have found that moving your screen just one inch farther away from your face has the same impact as installing a blue light filter on your device. That’s because most modern blue-light-blocking coatings only cut about 15% of the blue light a device emits.
Install a blue light filter program
There are a number of programs available that can automatically adjust the frequency of the light waves your screen is emitting. F.lux, for example, is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux and gives you the option to adjust the brightness manually or set it up to do so automatically based on the sunrise and sunset times in your part of the world.
Use your device’s built-in filters
You may not need to install a secondary program. Most devices now come with a built-in “night mode” that allows you to do the same thing as the above-mentioned program without wasting storage space on your device. Using the night mode feature, you can choose how intense the filter is (which controls how “orange” your screen will look), and set specific times for the filter to turn on and off.
Upgrade your screens
With the concern about blue light and eye strain on the rise, many manufacturers have started creating low blue light monitors that naturally emit less blue light while still providing the other functionality we’ve come to expect from these devices. You can find monitors in this category made by major manufacturers like Asus, Samsung, and ViewSonic.
Take frequent breaks
The easiest way to avoid eye strain when you’re behind a screen for long periods is to take frequent breaks: The 20-20-20 method is a good rule of thumb — for every 20 minutes you are behind a screen, take a 20-second break to look at something 6.10 m away. Bonus points if you actually get up and walk around a bit before getting back to work.