If you work in an office or around computers, the odds are high that you sometimes experience headaches, sore eyes, or low-quality sleep. You may have come to regard them as normal.
But the reality is that these issues are far from minor annoyances–while they’re common, they are actually signs of an unhealthy environment that can increase your risk of chronic disease and reduce your longevity.
The good news is that by making a few simple changes you can prevent sore eyes, headaches, and sleep problems.
In this article, you’ll learn how artificial blue light is causing common symptoms as well as reduced performance and energy levels, the long-term effects of blue light exposure, and how to preserve your health and wellness in modern work environments.
What is Blue Light Toxicity?
As a result of constant exposure to artificial blue light, many people are chronically “socially jet-lagged”–sleeping poorly and feeling fatigued during the daytime[*].
Blue light occurs naturally in sunlight but is also emitted by light bulbs, energy-efficient lighting, and digital devices including computers, tablets, and mobile phones. Compared to natural light, artificial light sources have more blue light and lower amounts of other visible frequencies.
Light plays an essential role in regulating your biology. Your body has distinct responses to different portions of the light spectrum.
High-energy blue and green light in your environment are responsible for regulating your natural body rhythms, which affect your sleep-wake cycle and control the expression of over half of the genes in your body[*].
The Eyes: Windows to the Brain
Your eyes transmit visual information to your brain, but they’re also responsible for sending non-visual signals that influence your natural body rhythms, sleep-wake cycles, and hormone production.
Artificial blue light is toxic to your eyes, even at low intensities[*]. Blue light exposure can destroy cells in your retina, kill off your mitochondria, disrupt the function of your circadian clock, and damage your pineal gland, which releases melatonin at night[*][*][*][*].
Over time, chronic blue light exposure thins your retina, causes DNA damage, and impairs the function of specialized cells in your eyes that respond to light and control your natural body rhythms[*][*]. As a result, you’re more likely to experience dry eyes, cataracts, macular degeneration, poor sleep, and increased stress levels[*][*][*][*][*][*][*].
Although it’s important to protect your eyes to avoid vision problems, most people don’t realize that blue light damage to your eyes also results in decreased longevity and an elevated risk of chronic disease[*].
Long-Term Effects of Blue Light Exposure
When your eyes and the specialized cells that control your circadian rhythms are damaged by blue light, your body loses the ability to repair itself at night, which elevates your risk of cancer[*].
Long-term blue light toxicity and mitochondrial damage are linked to a heightened risk of many apparently unrelated disorders including obesity, heart disease, schizophrenia, bipolar disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, epilepsy, strokes, neuropathic pain, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes[*][*][*]. The common factor among these issues is that they result from unhealthy environmental conditions.
While modern medicine treats the symptoms of environmental diseases, drugs and medications are ineffective at preventing diseases caused by unhealthy environments.
How to Solve Blue Light Toxicity
Screen filtering apps like Iris, F.lux, Twilight, and Night Shift can reduce the amount of blue light emitted by your device’s screen–which is a good start–but they’re not perfect standalone solutions.
Most filtering programs don’t filter 100% of blue light, and no filtering program can block other artificial light sources like televisions, energy-efficient LEDs, and fluorescent lights.
Overall, one of the best solutions for blue light toxicity is to wear specialized blue-blocking glasses. Blue blockers protect your eyes and vision, reduce symptoms of short-term blue light exposure, and enhance your sleep and mental and physical performance.
There are plenty of blue-blocking glasses on the market due to the fact that athletes, biohackers, and regular people are waking up to the adverse effects of blue light toxicity. Compared to F.lux and other screen filtering apps, these glasses can filter out even more blue light, as well as external light sources.
Here’s what to look for in blue-blocking glasses:
- The lenses must be treated with a special tint–common clear “blue blockers” don’t block the critical 455 nanometer range
- The tint should be rated to block all blue light, and most green light
- A stylish, lightweight frame helps you feel comfortable wearing them consistently, both inside the workplace and at night
Mito Shades by MitoHQ effectively block blue and green light in the 430-550 nanometer spectrum while preserving visual acuity.
For daytime use, or if your job requires color perception, Mito Shades are also available in a daytime tint that blocks the most detrimental range of blue
light and allows for color discrimination.
Replace Artificial Light With Natural Sunlight
Along with blocking harmful light frequencies, you can also enhance your health and well-being by getting natural sunlight on your skin and eyes throughout the day. Replacing artificial light with natural light as often as possible helps your body heal from blue light toxicity, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time.
While researchers initially chalked the benefits of sunlight up to vitamin D, that’s only part of the story. Natural light also works through immunomodulation, nitric oxide, melatonin, serotonin, programming your body’s natural clocks, and other pathways[*].
Here are some of the benefits of natural light:
- Improves your natural body rhythms[*]
- Promotes healthy vision[*][*]
- Brightens your mood[*]
- Decreases anxiety and depression[*]
- Reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease[*]
- Lowers blood pressure[*]
- Increases learning and memory[*]
- Enhances immune function[*]
- Improves cholesterol[*]
- Helps prevent cancer, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, and diabetes[*]
- Raises vitamin D levels[*]
Whether or not you work an office job, it’s an excellent idea to take regular breaks from the computer to go outside.
In modern work environments, addressing blue light toxicity is vital if you want to remain healthy
While nagging issues like sore eyes, headaches, and poor sleep are common, they are actually signs of underlying problems that can lead to chronic disease.
By wearing appropriate blue-blocking glasses and getting natural sunlight during breaks, you can preserve your vision and prevent symptoms like sore eyes, headaches, and poor sleep.
As a bonus, you’ll also enjoy enhanced mental clarity, better cognitive performance, and a decreased risk of health issues like cancer, dementia, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Image credits: Light,_suprachiasmatic_nuclei_(SCN),_and_the_pinealmelatonin_circuit.jpg by Zhiqiang Ma, et al. CC BY 4.0 .