Blue Light, its Impact on Your Health, and How Red Light Therapy Can Help

With all the screen time we are getting nowadays, not many people seem to understand the effects of blue light on our health and general well-being. We know that it can kill sleep and damage the eyes unless it is controlled, but the health impact of blue light goes far beyond that. 

In this introductory article, we will explore what exactly blue light is and the ways in which it may be affecting your quality of life. We will also see how red light can help to reverse the negative effects of blue light and improve your health.

What is Blue Light?

Blue light is part of the visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum. It has a wavelength of 400 nm-500 nm and appears cooler than the rest, but it is made up of high-energy light packets. 

Blue light is also the kind of light emitted by digital screens and some fluorescent or LED lighting. 

The light spectrum is composed of light between 400 nm and 750 nm. This range can be divided in order of increasing wavelength into six colors of visible light called violent, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red. Blue light occupies the 400nm-500nm range, just slightly above the harmful range of invisible ultraviolet light.

Blue light is everywhere, even in sunlight. It's the reason why the sky appears blue on a cloudless day, so it isn't necessarily harmful. Blue light can actually be beneficial by increasing alertness, boosting memory, and raising your mood. 

However, artificial sources of blue light such as digital screens are harmful because of the intensity of the light they produce and their proximity to us. The fact that they remain on even at night means that they have the potential to disrupt the body's circadian rhythm and cause various negative health effects.

Health Effects of Blue Light

The negative health effects of blue light stem from its use in artificial light sources. Due to its higher energy values, it can do more damage than warmer light. Blue light emitters such as smartphones flicker thousands of times a minute, which increases the damage it can do. 

A lot of research is currently ongoing into the harmful health effects of blue light, especially in the eyes. The short wavelength of light between 415nm and 455nm is the most dangerous because it penetrates the retina and causes photochemical damage. The light also causes nearsightedness and visual fatigue because it converges just in front of the retina. 

The eye's retina can even form cataracts as it adapts to protect itself from increased exposure to blue light. That's because the front of the retina will cloud over and form yellow pigments to block out this harmful light, but this leads to decreased sensitivity to light.

Excessive exposure to blue light can also reduce the light sensitivity of cells at the back of the retina. This can lead to a condition called macular degeneration and eventually, permanent loss of vision. 

Together with these, the rest of the problems associated with blue light have to do with sleep deprivation and disruption of the circadian rhythm. 

How Blue Light Disrupts the Circadian Rhythm and Causes Health Problems

The reason you can stay up all night scrolling your Facebook feed or watching TV but can't do that when reading is because of blue light. It does this by disrupting the body's production of melatonin, commonly known as the sleep hormone. 

Increased exposure to blue light during the night disrupts the body's natural 24-hour clock, which is also responsible for other processes such as the sleep/wake cycle, secretion of hormones, cardiovascular health, the balance of glucose, and body temperature. 

Disrupting the circadian rhythm leads to many negative health effects, including:

  • Increased Risk of Stroke and Heart Attacks

Sleep deprivation and disruption of the circadian rhythm have a direct connection to cardiovascular health. During deep sleep cycles, the heart rate slows down, blood pressure drops, and breathing stabilizes into a state known as nocturnal dipping. This state gives the body a chance to repair itself. 

Lack of sufficient sleep can prevent nocturnal dipping, which can lead directly to conditions such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes, and coronary heart disease. 

  • Increased Risk of Obesity and Diabetes

The body's metabolism is dependent on the circadian rhythm for homeostatic regulation. When the rhythm is disrupted, it can cause significant weight gain. It has also been shown that a disrupted circadian rhythm elevates both the glucose and insulin levels in blood plasma, which can lead to diabetes type-2. 

  • Lower Tolerance to Pain and Stress

Sleep disruption is a well-known cause of stress. However, new studies are also showing that it could lead to increased susceptibility to neuropathic pain, migraines, and headaches. Daily patterns in this kind of pain have been closely linked to the circadian clock, with increased production of pain hormones observed in subjects under interrupted circadian cycles. 

  • Compromised Immune Functions

The circadian clock is responsible for coordinating the functions of the immune system. This is true in both healthy and sick states of the body, with evidence suggesting that immune response is launched at specific times during the circadian cycle. 

In other words, the body's immune response is closely matched with the circadian rhythm cycles. 

  • Mental and Psychological Illness

Clinical trials in mice showed that continued disruption of the circadian rhythm leads to reduced cognitive ability, reduced ability to adapt to new environments, and changes in neural behavior in the brain region required for high-level functions. This means that the effects of a disrupted circadian rhythm in humans could translate to memory loss, reduced concentration, lack of creativity, and increased stress in humans. 

Alternatives to Blue Light: How Red Light Can Help

The solution to blue light health benefits is not to cut it off from your life. In fact, blue light is necessary to regulate the wake cycle of the circadian rhythm.

Apart from reducing screen time, staying away from blue light at night, and using blue light filters, the only real therapy to combat the effects of blue light is light therapy using the rest of the visible light spectrum between yellow light and red light.  

Red Light Therapy is a kind of therapy that uses red light between 600nm and 1300nm to help relax the eyes and restore normal production of melatonin. Having red light therapy for just 15 minutes a day before sleep can help restore the circadian rhythm to its defaults

RLT can also be combined with yellow or green light to help ease the circadian rhythm back to normal functionality. While the red light equipment now commonly found in spas, saunas, and gyms can help with relaxation and stress relief, only a home red light device can help you take this therapy before bed. 

At Red Light Therapy, we are happy to bring you a wide selection of red light devices. From full-body red light boxes to portable panels, choose the right one from our collection and say goodbye to the negative health effects of blue light today. Also, feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Sources: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6288536/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4632990/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4090048/

https://www.pnas.org/content/108/4/1657