Blue light is part of the rainbow of colors which comprise the visible spectrum of light. Blue light contains high energy wavelengths and is everywhere, coming from both natural and artificial sources. It is important to distinguish between the health effects of natural and artificial sources of blue light.
Natural blue light exposure from the sun is beneficial and helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm. In the morning, blue light from the sun suppresses a hormone called melatonin, which regulates sleep. The sun’s blue light signals our bodies that it is time to wake up. In the evening, the amount of blue light coming from the sun decreases, with an increase in melatonin production, letting our bodies know that it is time to wind down and get ready for bed.
This natural blue light cycle is interrupted by artificial sources of blue light from digital screens, CFL bulbs, and LEDs to which we are exposed during all hours of the day. Studies have shown that increased exposure to blue light during the evening hours, particularly two hours before bedtime, interrupts our circadian patterns, making it more difficult to fall asleep and also stay asleep.
Excessive blue light exposure has also been linked to eye health concerns, the most important being digital eyestrain. Symptoms of digital eyestrain, also known as computer vision syndrome, include: difficulty focusing, blurred vision, dry eye, light sensitivity, headache, and even neck or shoulder pain. Fortunately, there is no evidence thus far linking blue light to permanent vision loss or blindness.
Additionally, the impact of blue light on children can have similar effects on vision, whose eyes may not be able to filter blue light as well as adult eyes. Early research has shown that excessive blue light exposure in children has also been linked to hyperactivity and decreased attention spans.
How can we protect our eyes against blue light exposure given our unavoidable dependence on digital devices and high levels of screen time?
The most effective ways include:
- proper nutrition
- blue blocking glasses, and
- screen filters.
Nature has provided our eyes with internal blue light protection – three pigments called lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin. Collectively referred to as the “macular carotenoids,” they are found in high concentrations within the macula, or central retina. These pigments act as frontline defense by filtering high-energy wavelengths of potentially harmful blue light, functioning as our innate blue blockers. Meso-zeaxanthin is the most potent of the macular carotenoids because of its powerful antioxidant capability.
Because our bodies cannot make these protective pigments, which our eyes need, we must get them as nutrients, either from our diet or from supplementation.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found abundantly in dark green, leafy vegetables (such as spinach, kale, and collard greens), yellow and orange bell peppers, cilantro, parsley, egg yolk and corn. Unlike lutein and zeaxanthin, meso-zeaxanthin is not readily found in high quantities in foods.
Obtaining sufficient amounts of the macular carotenoids from diet alone can be challenging. Clinical research suggests the optimum levels of lutein are at least 6-20 mg/day and of zeaxanthin are 1-4 mg/day. Because typically daily consumption of lutein is only 1-2 mg and of zeaxanthin is less than 1 mg, most people are deficient in these critical eye health nutrients.
To make up for the gap, supplementation can provide an easy way to protect our eyes against blue light exposure.
Blue Light Filtering Supplements
There are many eye health supplements on the market which claim to protect against digital eye strain and artificial blue light which comes from screens and energy-saving bulbs.
However, not all supplements contain all three macular carotenoids. Most supplements are missing meso-zeaxanthin, the most potent of the three. The combination of the three essential macular carotenoids has strong science behind it. The combination has been clinically proven to increase pigment density in the retina and also protect against the symptoms of digital eye strain.
You can also look for a proprietary ingredient called “Lutemax 2020” which has lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin in the same ratio as is found naturally within the retina, whose benefits for vision health have been extensively studied. You can find Lutemax 2020 in a variety of blue light and vision supplements including gummy supplements, which are great for children and adults (just look for it on the ingredient label).
Here are several pharmaceutical-grade supplements from my favorite, trusted brands which contain all three of the natural blue blocking pigments found within our eyes. If you click on the images, you will be taken to an on-line pharmacy called Fullscript, which offers pharmaceutical-grade supplements. By clicking the link and creating an account, you will receive 10% off.
*Please keep in mind that these supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with your personal physician or healthcare professional.
Blue Blocking Glasses
There are many manufacturers of blue blocking glasses, but they are not all made the same. To get full protection, it is important to purchase blue blockers whch block out as close to 100% of high energy blue rays. Of course, if you wanted less blue blocking, there are different tints and grades of blue blockers you could purchase.
One of the top brands which I have found and trust is called “TrueDark”. There are several options on their website in terms of filtering lenses.
Simply click the image to see the options and purchase.
My favorite screen filter app is called “Iris” and can be downloaded to your device- smartphone, computer, or tablet. Not only does it block out blue light emitted by screens, it also eliminates the flicker rate of screens which triggers light sensitivity and migraine.
The app is customizable with 27 possible settings. It can also adjust the amount of blue light based on your time zone to mirror the cycle of natural blue light exposure emitted by the sun.
You can download the app to your device or computer by clicking the link to the right. There is a 7 day FREE trial and then you may purchase it for a small fee. This link provides an extra 10% off.