Sunlight is comprised of all different colored light — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. These colors combined are the white light our eyes see, each with a different wavelength and energy.1

On one end of the light spectrum are red rays which have longer wavelengths and less energy. On the other end are blue rays which have shorter wavelengths and more energy. While some light we look at may look white, it can have large portions of blue within it, exposing our eyes to the shorter wavelength and higher energy rays.1

Sources of Blue Light

While computers and devices mostly come to mind when we think of blue light, there are other sources of exposure including:1

  • Sunlight – the largest source
  • Fluorescent light
  • Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
  • LED light
  • Flat Screen LED Televisions

And the most known source:

  • Computer monitors, smart phones and tablets

Benefits of Blue Light

The largest source of blue light is the sun, so humans have been exposed to this type of light long before we began carrying a phone in our pocket. While blue light is now primarily associated with “digital” blue light and eye strain, this ray of light isn’t all bad.

Blue light is necessary for many things associated with a healthy lifestyle:

  • Blue light helps to regulate circadian rhythm (sleep). Exposure to blue light like the sun helps our bodies maintain this circadian rhythm.1
  • Increases alertness and assists with memory and cognitive function; as SLEEP® outlines, “blue light increases subsequent functional activation of the prefrontal cortex during performance of a working memory task”2
  • Blue light elevates mood, for example the feeling you experience on a bright sunny day; this positive effect is thanks to the blue light of the sun3
  • Exposure to the blue light from the sunlight is necessary for the growth and development of the eyes and vision; a blue light deficiency from the sun could increase the risk of myopia (nearsightedness)4

While sunlight is the largest source of blue light exposure and is beneficial to our health, the most concern resides over the blue light from digital devices due to the proximity and time spent viewing the screens.1

What Does Blue Light Do To Your Eyes  

Digital blue light from phone

Short wave blue light with wavelengths between 415nm and 455 nm has been shown to cause damage to the eye.5 A light wavelength between 300 and 400 nm can be absorbed the iris or pupil, but since blue light has the shortest wavelength, it passes the cornea and lens and penetrates the crystals into the retina, which may cause irreversible photochemical retinal damage.5

Long-term exposure to digital blue light from devices can potentially cause damage to your eyes and lead to the following visual concerns:

Myopia (nearsightedness): Digital blue light has a short wavelength so its focus is on the front of the retina. Because of this, long exposure to blue light may result in eye fatigue and nearsightedness. Myopia may impact one’s ability to work or learn as symptoms include double vision and difficulty concentration.6

Cataracts: There are structural proteins within the lens that absorb short wave light, which help to block blue light retinal damage. As it protects the retina, the lens itself decreases in transparency which may lead to cataract formation.6

Eyestrain: The blue light from digital screens (computers, phones, tablets) can lead to eyestrain. This is impacted by factors such as how you sit in front of the digital screen or computer and the prevalence of dry eye and fatigue. The symptoms of digital eyestrain include irritation of the eyes and difficulty focusing.6

Retina Damage: Long-term blue light exposure may lead to damaged retinal cells, which causes more serious vision problems such as age-related macular degeneration.6

Reducing Exposure to Blue Light

With the increased concern surrounding blue light’s effect on eye health, there are simple ways to reduce your exposure to the harmful short wavelength light, from environmental changes to adding supplements for digital blue light protection into your routine.

vitamins for digital blue light

Reduce Screen Time: While we do live in a digital world, one of the easiest ways to reduce negative exposure to blue light is to reduce the time spent looking at a screen. An easy way to implement this into your schedule is to take breaks from the computer, phone or tablet screen. Every 20 minutes, look away from the screen for 20 seconds and focus on an object that is 20 feet away.7

Adjust Nightly Schedule to Reduce Blue Light: Blue light plays a large role in our circadian rhythm, so it is important to reduce the exposure to blue light in the evening before bed. It is recommended to reduce device exposure three hours before you go to sleep, allowing for the natural release of melatonin.6

Wear Blue Light Glasses: While reducing exposure and powering down devices is the best way to reduce the negative effects of digital blue light, you can also arm yourself with blue light glasses to help block the rays. These glasses have a yellow tint which increase the contrast on your digital screen, filtering the blue light and easing digital eyestrain.7

Wear blue light glasses throughout the day when you’re at the computer screen or looking at your phone or tablet. If you’re unable to adjust your nightly routine to reduce blue light exposure, at least wear digital blue light blocking glasses to reduce the exposure and help reduce melatonin suppression.7

Use a Screen Filter: You may add a filter to your computer, phone and tablet screen to help filter the blue light the device gives off.7

Take Eye Health Supplements: A University of Georgia study shows Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which are macular carotenoids, help to reduce eye strain, sleep issues and headaches associated with prolonged digital screen time.8 Commonly found in leafy greens such as kale, collard greens and spinach, these antioxidants “eliminate the free radicals produced by high-energy blue light exposure on the retina, and help absorb the damaging light,” as the American Optometric Association explained.

In this study, subjects exposed to at least six hours of screen time per day were given 24mg of macular carotenoid daily. The results showed a reduction of 30% in the symptoms associated with digital blue light exposure.8

Astaxanthin is another nutrient that is beneficial to protecting the eyes from experiencing symptoms caused by digital blue light. Astaxanthin is microalga found in Haematococcus pluvialis, which has a red-orange pigment which gives salmon and pink flamingos their color! It has been shown to offer a variety of health benefits, from protecting the eyes to helping with heart, skin and joint health, and immune support.9

Along with astaxanthin’s benefit to the eyes, it works with other carotenoids which support eye health — namely lutein and zeaxanthin. It helps to trigger the natural defense proteins that support the other antioxidants. By adding astaxanthin to the other carotenoids, the eye gains better absorption of light across wavelengths.10 Astaxanthin has been shown to help protect the eyes from the entire solar spectrum.11

 

1 Prevent Blindness
2 SLEEP
3 MedicineNet
4 MyMyopia
5 International Journal of Opthalmology
6 MedicineNet
7 WebMD
8 American Optometric Association
9 DailyGem
10 Algatech
11 Sandmann, G. Carotenoids of biotechnological importance. Advances in Biochemical Engineering/ Biotechnology. 2015;148:449-67