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Blue Light 101

There’s a reason everyone is telling us to unplug. Check out these tips to reduce blue light exposure, sleep better, and thrive every day.

Blue Light 101

Blue light is something you encounter every day, all day – and so do your kids. While you’ve probably heard the term blue light and might even own a pair of blue light-blocking glasses, it’s possible you don’t know exactly what it is or what it does, or how it can affect your family.

Science class is now in session, so pull up a chair for Blue Light 101!

What is blue light?

Blue light is a natural part of the visible light spectrum; it’s opposite warmer wavelengths like red and yellow. It emits short, high-energy wavelengths between 415 and 455 nanometers, whereas warmer waves are slower. Blue light is also the reason why we see the sky as blue!

Where is it found?

We encounter blue light primarily via the sun, but also from fluorescent bulbs, LED lighting, and digital devices like phones, computers, and tablets.

What does it do?

During the day, blue light can promote feelings of alertness and helps us regulate our natural circadian rhythms. Before the invention of electricity, natural blue light via the sun was how people knew it was time to wake up, and when the sun went down, it was time for bed.

Now we have artificial blue light around us 24/7 if we want it, whether that’s via our smartphones and tablets or energy-efficient LED lighting. Teens, of course, are constantly connected to devices for their social lives and schoolwork.

Are there negative effects of blue light?

There’s no denying that we live in a digital world. The CDC reports that nearly 70% of children 12-15 years old had more than the recommended two hours of screen time each day. While the long-term effects of blue light are still being studied, Harvard Health Publishing reports that blue light may disrupt our natural circadian rhythms and make it more difficult to fall and stay asleep. It can impact the secretion of the hormone melatonin, which signals your body that it’s time for bed. If you have children, you know how vital a good night’s sleep is for their overall well-being – and you need your zz’s too!

How do our eyes filter blue light?

It’s all about carotenoids, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids are pigments found in fruits and vegetables; your body doesn’t produce these naturally. You can incorporate lutein and zeaxanthin into your diet with foods like carrots, kale, broccoli, and spinach, though the American Optometric Association notes that the typical Western diet is low in carotenoids. 

Lutein and zeaxanthin are stored in your eyes — specifically in the macula, the region of the eye near the center of your retina that helps you focus on what’s in front of you, like a computer screen or notebook.

Maculae are exposed to a great deal of blue light throughout the day, but these key carotenoids work as a filter to help reduce the intensity of blue light that reaches the retina. Increasing your intake of lutein and zeaxanthin can increase macular pigment levels in the eye, which helps build a stronger filter against blue light.[1] Studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin also have antioxidant properties and may support other eye health benefits.[2][3]

How can I reduce my family’s exposure to blue light?

We love these easy tips:

  • Consider enforcing a “no devices” rule at least an hour before bedtime and require your teen to leave phones and tablets outside their bedroom at night.
  • If they’re on homework late into the night, have them dim their screens or switch to night mode.
  • Opt for warmer-toned LED bulbs in your home to reduce blue light exposure.
  • Take tech breaks throughout the day if possible. Even just shutting down for 10 minutes and going for a walk can be helpful!
  • Try to make unwinding and relaxing without screens a priority in your home.
  • Be sure that everyone in your family wears sunglasses when they’re out and about in the sunshine.

Make sure your family has the tools they need to make the most of their bright future and see everything the world has to offer. Help them thrive with special nutritional tips for kids and teens.