Blue light, especially from electronic devices and LED lights, has been all over the news lately, primarily warning about sleep interference. However, there's real urgency to learn about light and your health —especially those with aging eyes. Few people stop to think about light, much less the effects different colors of light can have on our bodies, moods, and overall health. Stepping outdoors into sunlight, flipping a light switch indoors and shining from our televisions, computers and cell phones. . . light is all around us!
All of these things result in your eyes being exposed to a variety of visible and sometimes invisible light rays that can have a range of biological effects. Without even thinking about it, your body uses light to regulate your biological clock that controls appetite, energy, mood, sleep, libido and other body-mind functions. Light also plays a role in basic functions of the human brain such as alertness, memory, emotion, and cognitive performance.
The health effects of visible light, blue light as well as invisible ultra violet (UV) and infrared radiation (IR) have not been clearly elucidated until now. We are perfectly adapted to the radiation of our sun on Earth by evolution. This becomes obvious when you look at the medical studies on light use prior to the advent of antibiotics. Original data clearly shows the health benefits of heliotherapy (solar radiation therapy) that living things get naturally. Today, living things no longer get those radiations from standard lighting that focuses only on the visible light spectrum. Today’s light is unbalanced!
Corporations like General Electric and Phillips removed invisible UV (ultra violet) and IR (infrared light) to save energy and money, but apparently never thought to test how this version of light would affect living things. We have no defenses to chronic blue light when UV and IR are subtracted. Sunlight includes an abundance of IR as well as visible red light. These longer wavelengths provide metabolic power to the cells. High energy visible (HEV) blue light is a very powerful stimulus and this helps explain why the eye must have infrared present anytime blue light is present to offset the mitochondrial damage it can cause. Today’s artificial light is created without any stimulus of UV or IR as is present in the sun.
It's well documented that some HEV blue light exposure is essential for good health. Did you know blue light can make you feel better and increase energy? Sunlight is the main source of blue light, and being outdoors during daylight is where many of us get most of our exposure to it. In its natural balanced form, blue light from the sun helps our bodies determine day from night, and thus, when it's time for sleep. Exposure to blue light during daytime hours helps maintain a healthful circadian rhythm. In fact, the lack of daytime blue light can disrupt this cycle, potentially causing sleepless nights and daytime fatigue.
Research has shown that HEV boosts alertness, helps memory and cognitive function and elevates mood. In fact, 'blue light therapy' is now used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons that can result in debilitating fatigue, appetite changes, and mood disorders. Studies have shown that for some people, monochromatic blue light (containing only one color) can be just as effective as antidepressant medications. However, most light sources for this therapy emit 'bright white light' that contains a significant amount HEV blue light rays.
In addition to natural sunlight, there are many man-made, indoor sources of blue light which include fluorescent and energy efficient LED lighting. Most notably, LED light bulbs, computer display screens, electronic notebooks, and smart phones emit significant amounts of HEV. The amount of HEV these devices emit is only a fraction of that emitted by the sun. But the amount of time people spend indoors radiated by unbalanced light and using these devices as well as the proximity of screens to the user's face have many health care professionals concerned about possible long-term effects of blue light, especially on eye health.
Risk of Macular Degeneration
The fact that blue light penetrates all the way to the retina of the eye is important, because research has shown that too much exposure to blue light, especially from LED lights, can damage light-sensitive cells in the retina. This causes changes that resemble those of macular degeneration which can lead to permanent vision loss.This is a serious problem with new LED lighting.
Invisible near infrared light (NIR) helps prime the cells in your retina for ‘repair and regeneration’ and helps reduce the risk of macular degeneration.
Beware that staring at your television, computer, tablet, or phone before you go to bed is having a negative impact on your eye health and a good night's rest.
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