The Blue Light Problem and How to Overcome It

What do your smartphone, laptop, tablet, and flat-screen TV all have in common? They’re not only the devices we use daily, but they’re all sources of blue light! We spend so much time in front of screens that even our smartphones have started calculating the time we spend on them (have you checked your screen time stats lately?).

The numbers are quite alarming—with people averaging nearly seven hours of screen time per day. If we weren’t spending as much time staring at screens, blue light wouldn’t be as much of a concern to our health. But the reality is that being exposed to artificial blue light is taking a toll on our overall well-being.

If you’ve heard of problems with blue light before but are not sure exactly how they affect you, I’ll go over everything you need to know, including ways to reduce your blue light exposure and the benefits of unplugging with conscious travel. First, let’s review what exactly the blue light problem is.

What is Blue Light?

The human eye can only see a certain amount of light—this is called the visible light spectrum. Within that spectrum is blue light, which has the shortest wavelength but the highest energy. Nearly a third of all visible light is blue light, as it is all around us. Sunlight is the biggest source of blue light, but artificial sources have increased our exposure drastically.

Things like fluorescent light, LED TVs, computer monitors, laptops, tablets, and smartphones all emit high amounts of blue light. The blue light problem stems from the long-term effects of blue light exposure from our digital devices.

What are the Harmful Effects of Blue Light?

One of the biggest problems with blue light is that our eyes are not very good at blocking out it out. Nearly all blue light passes straight through to our retinas which could damage cells and cause vision problems. This can also contribute to age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, eye cancer, and other eye issues.

Another blue light problem involves dry eye and eye strain issues since people tend to blink less when using digital devices. This leads to even more blue light exposure that could cause headaches, blurred vision, along with neck or shoulder pain from eye strain. Beyond these harmful effects of blue light on your eyes, there’s another major concern – the effects your brain.

How Does Blue Light Affect Your Brain?

Since blue light helps to regulate your circadian rhythm (wake-and-sleep cycle), having too much of it late at night can disrupt your sleep patterns. Blue light stimulates your brain, which can slow or stop the release of the sleep hormone melatonin. You need those levels of melatonin for a good night’s sleep.

Altering your levels of melatonin can have a domino effect on other health issues. When your sleep is disrupted, and you don’t get enough rest each night, it can contribute to sleep disorders, heart disease, cognitive dysfunctions, and type 2 diabetes. Getting an adequate amount of sleep without disruptions is imperative to your overall health.

Other problems with blue light can affect your mental health, and lack of sleep can lead to depression and anxiety. Blue light can also interfere with the way our brain regulates our emotions and mood. High levels of blue light can increase cortisol and adrenaline hormones leaving us feeling more irritable and stressed. It’s clear that reducing your exposure to blue light can help alleviate these health concerns.

How To Eliminate the Problems with Blue Light

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to remove blue light completely, but there are ways to limit your exposure to it. The first and easiest way to do so is by limiting your screen time each day. Those of you who work from home or work for yourself, probably find yourself on your computer or phone quite a bit during the day. In this case, try to limit your exposure when your work day is done; instead of watching TV, pick up a book or try journaling. Give your eyes and mental health a break by unplugging for the day.

Another way to reduce problems with blue light is using screen filters to lower blue light exposure. Many smartphones and laptops also offer the option to adjust your screen to have a warm light tone rather than a blue light tone. You can do this just at night when you don’t want to affect your melatonin levels or have it on all the time.

Talk with your eye doctor about blue light protection at your next eye examination. You can try blue-light-blocking glasses, yellow-tinted computer glasses, or ones with anti-reflective lenses. All of these can help reduce the amount of blue light that affects your eyes.

Embrace the Benefits of Unplugging with Conscious Travel

If you’re familiar with my content, you know I love conscious travel and being mindful of my health and surroundings. There are many benefits of unplugging including reducing the blue light problem, improving your sleep, and living a higher quality of life. When you unplug, you can really take the time to look inward with more mindfulness and awareness.

When you head out on your next vacation, take a moment to consciously unplug and reduce your screen time. Be present and enjoy the pleasures of conscious travel that don’t involve staring at a screen. Take time to reset without your devices by overcoming seasonal depression with slow, mindful travel, finding ways to relax and calm travel anxiety, or refreshing your mind and body with a fasting cure.

Want to learn more about conscious travel and overall well-being? Follow along on my blog or my Instagram account @kathrindilauro for inspiration!

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