The first time I read an article that painted a picture of how Blue light from smartphone screens are damaging to the eyes and likely to cause blindness, I almost went into panic mode. And that is understandable: my smartphone is my primary screen these days. I am sure that applies to many other people as well. If blue light from digital devices damage the eye, I was in big trouble!
So, I started reading up on the subject. I quickly found that there are tons of websites pushing that same scary narrative. This was serious. Surely, I was going to go blind, and so were you. One university of Toledo study says that prolonged exposure to blue light “triggers poisonous molecules to be generated in the eye’s light-sensitive cells that can cause macular degeneration — an incurable condition that affects the middle part of vision”. Scary stuff.
But among all of that noise about how this light was certain to run all of us blind were a few less scary voices. And they were credible voices.
I found other reports from university researches and medical institutions that pointed out the dangers, but made it clear that it did no such damage to the eye as the louder voices claimed.
Table of Contents
What is Blue Light?
Blue light is everywhere, and the sun is the greatest source. It is close to harmful ultra-violet rays, yet it is not all bad as has been painted.
The Real Dangers Of Blue Light
Being exposed to blue light at night will affect your sleep, as the light works to keep you awake. Exposing your eyes to it for long periods will lead to dryness in your eyes and put a strain on the muscles that help the eye focus.
Adam Gordon, O.D. is a clinical associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry. He says that overuse and exposure to blue light may lead to eye strain and focusing problems, but that it does not appear to cause long-term harm, eye disease, or damage to the retina.
How To Take Care Of Your Eyes
I am convinced that blue light does not damage the eyes, as scaremongers will have us believe. A whole industry is being built around the dangers of this light. And companies are trying to sell stuff to you. However, it is clear that too much exposure to it can cause sleeplessness and eye strain. So, yes; there is need for you to make adjustments in how you use your smartphone.
A University of Alabama resource has this to say:
To further maintain comfortable vision while using digital devices, it is important to use the 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 minutes of digital device use, look away for 20 seconds focusing on something 20 feet away. Using artificial tear or lubricant drops may also relieve some symptoms of dryness.
There is some early laboratory research using animal models that suggests excessive blue light exposure can damage some sensitive cell layers of the retina. There is no clinical evidence at the present time that links blue light exposure from digital devices to any pathology or disease of the eye.
“Some advertisements from lens manufacturers are misleading consumers to believe that blue light from digital devices will cause serious harm to their eyes,” Gordon said. “Products created to block out blue light minimize eyestrain when using computers and digital devices, but have not been tested or shown to prevent any type of eye disease.”
Macular degeneration and other eye diseases in relation to blue light is the great unknown. The main risk factors for these eye diseases are age, genetic factors, UV light, smoking and poor nutrition more than digital device use.
How to cut blue light from your phone screen to help you sleep better
Blue light is a type of light that has a short wavelength and high energy. It is emitted by the sun, but also by artificial sources such as LED lights, computer screens, smartphones, and other electronic devices. It can have both positive and negative effects on your health. On one hand, it can boost your alertness, mood, and cognitive function during the day. On the other hand, it can disrupt your circadian rhythm, which is your natural sleep-wake cycle, at night. This can make it harder for you to fall asleep and affect the quality of your sleep.
To cut blue light from your phone screen and help you sleep better, you can use a blue light filter feature that is available on most smartphones. A light filter reduces the amount of blue light that your screen emits, and makes it look warmer and more yellowish. This can help your eyes relax and prepare your body for sleep. Here are some steps to turn on a blue light filter on different types of phones:
- If you have an iPhone, you can use the Night Shift feature. To turn it on, open Control Center and press Brightness Control. Then tap the symbol that looks like a little sun. You can also go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift and set a schedule or manually enable it until the next day. You can adjust the color temperature with the slider.
- If you have a Samsung Galaxy phone, you can use the Blue Light Filter feature. To turn it on, pull down your notification shade and swipe down again to access your quick settings. One of them is called Blue Light Filter. Tap to toggle it on and off. You can also go to Settings > Display > Blue Light Filter and set a schedule or manually enable it. You can adjust the opacity with the slider.
- If you have a Pixel phone or another Android phone running Android 8.0 Oreo or later, you can use the Night Light feature. To turn it on, go to Settings > Display > Night Light. Tap on Schedule to specify your own hours and change the level of filtering with the Intensity slider. You can also tap Turns On from Sunset to Sunrise to turn it on automatically at night and off in the morning.
Other measures you can take to help you sleep better
Besides using a filter on your phone, you can also take some other measures to reduce the effects of blue light on your sleep. For example, you can:
- Avoid using your phone or other devices at least 3 hours before bed.
- Dim the brightness of your screen and use dark mode or night mode if available.
- Wear blue light blocking glasses if you have to use your devices at night.
- Use curtains, blinds, or shades to block out any external blue light sources in your bedroom.
- Expose yourself to natural sunlight during the day to help your circadian rhythm stay in sync.