Updated: Jun 9, 2021
The struggle has been real. I am made for the South. I love it when the sun is beating down on me and I can feel my skin getting tan and it's hot. I love the sun. This winter weather certainly makes me feel unmotivated, and the days at work feel longer.
I would rather it be 98 degrees (you are...my fiiiiiiire.. my one.. deeeesiiire..) outside than 48. I'm a pasty pale transparent white girl *86 the pumpkin spice. My hair color is all grown out so I'm mousy and I have all these zits. I am simply killin' it.
Crown me, the new Miss Louisiana.
I'd rather lose for what I am than win for what I ain't."
- Kacey Musgraves (the queen)
Guys, clearly I'm not always higher than my hair. I just love the song. Kacey will always be a musical theme in these blogs and I sincerely wish I was friends with her. If she ever reads one of my blogs I may die. Also, very clearly, everyone knows I would never win Ms. Congenial, LOL. I'm good with it.
How y'all been? Christmas is in 5 days (that's how long I've been trying to finish this blog), which is confusing, because I keep thinking it's on Thursday. And it's on Friday. The world is still on fire. And how did we get here? Not too sure, because there's barely oxygen left for the plants with so much arguing in the world.
Speaking of social media - Statistics from 2020 shouldn't surprise you - screen time is up, way up.... Apple hasn't released any statistics based on the "Screen Time" report it gives it's iPhone users weekly (if they did, I can't find it), but there are plenty of anecdotal blogs and articles from people on the internet, with screen shots of their Screen Time Reports being up as much as 183% during pandemic times. (4) And of course, we're not talking just phone screens - laptops, tablets, video games, TVs, and desktops are all getting more attention. Whether you're quarantined, working from home, trying to keep in touch with friends, family, coworkers, trying to keep your children silent and in one location, or doing home-schooling - screens are dominating your days.
I got an alert on my phone the other morning regarding my screen time from the past week: I'm proud/not proud to report that my own screen time (just on my phone, of course, this doesn't count how many hours per week I'm staring into this giant glaring screen at work) was an average of FIVE AND A HALF HOURS per DAY and that's down from EIGHT HOURS. cringe.
I have featured an item on the blog in the past called Theraspecs. No, I don't get paid, they don't know I exist, but I think their product is great, so now you're reading about it. Their glasses aren't specifically made to filter blue light from screens (they do, but primarily they filter fluorescent light waves like from artificial lighting), but there are many many others that do specifically filter blue lights. And they help my ratchet eyes and brain to not get dizzy. I got these glasses because I was having weird symptoms in big stores, and after asking around and doing a little googling, I discovered that fluorescent lighting can give people vertigo and other symptoms. Sooooo..
You may have guessed... The topic of the blog today is blue light.
What is blue light? Is it bad for us? Do we need to decrease our exposure to it? And mostly, ma'am. WHY do we care?
Here's a quote from Harvard to get us going:
"Until the advent of artificial lighting, the sun was the major source of lighting, and people spent their evenings in (relative) darkness ... Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown." (2)
That doesn't tell me why I should care.
"White light, the type of light we use everyday (such as the sun), seems to be colorless, but is really composed of many wavelengths of light of various colors. Sir Isaac Newton discovered this when shining "colorless" sunlight through a prism thus separating the various wavelengths into its component colors.
An easy way to remember the various colors of white light is the mnemonic, "ROY G BIV": Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet.
The wavelengths of the visible light range from 380 to 700 nm (nanometers). A nanometer equals a billionth of a meter. Violet light is the shortest wavelength whereas red light is the longest wavelength. Shorter wavelengths of light contain more energy compared to longer wavelengths.
As you can see in the graphic, blue light is part of the visible spectrum ranging 380-500 nm. Blue light can be further broken down to blue-violet light (380-450 nm) and blue-turquoise light (450-500 nm).
Essentially, about 1/3 of all visible light is blue light." (3)
Couldn't've said it better myself, Dr. Wong. Thanks.
Y'all gonna love this:
"We DoN't HaVe aLL tHe ResEarCh on BLuE LigHt YeT, sO mAnY oF thEsE sUsPecTed HaRmS of BLue LiGhT aRe sTiLL BeiNg ResEarChED." #2020 #SoundsFamiliar
To break it down backwards.. blue light is 1 shade of radiation/light that we can see out of ROY G. BIV. We can see all those other colors, think of the prism. Visible light is radiation that we can SEE, and it is only 1 of many types of radiation that we are familiar with, such as microwaves, radio waves, X-RAY waves, etc. Light is radiation, and visible light is the prism. Within ROY G. BIV, the different colors of light have different measurements and activity. Light travels in a wave like this ~~~~~~~ (technology skillz on fleek. do people still say on fleek or is that gone?). Some waves are big and tall, some are tiny and short. (13)
Warning, Opinion: Here's my thing. Maybe you don't care about blue light exposure and your eyes because research is inconclusive or it says your phone and computer screens aren't going to damage your eyes. That's fine. But... We aren't still trying to prove the critical importance that sleep has on your day to day and long term health.
Chronic poor sleep or complete insomnia wreak havoc on your hormones, mood, critical thinking, etc... So if blue light exposure can negatively impact my sleep and my eyes, I'm getting on defense.
I don't know this for a fact, but it seems like people first started wondering if the blue light emitted from all this artificial stuff in our world and devices today is harmful to us, because, UV radiation from the SUN ("ultra violet radiation") is just a mere step above light waves that we humans can see. Actual UVA/UVB/UVC waves from the sun are invisible, and usually you are aware of them because they are hot or they burn you - sun burns.
The sun's primary danger is in the form of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Artificial sources, like welding machines, tanning beds and lasers, can also produce UV radiation. (14)
Excess sun (or artificial UV) exposure can cause "UV photokeratitis" (UV photo - ker-a-tie-tiss) which is like a sunburn of your eyes... ouch. This is a short term problem, however, long term, heavy sun exposure can cause or worsen cataracts or macular degeneration... So, that's the link to the rest of this story..
Here are some proven or currently-being-researched-suspected harms of blue light exposure:
Interruption of, or prolonged circadian rhythm Translation: Blue light exposure at the wrong times of day or night for you, or for long hours during the day can throw off your body's natural sleep/wake cycle.
so.. Sleep disturbance Translation: Blue light exposure at night time (or your normal time to sleep) can keep you awake longer and make it more difficult to fall asleep (spoiler: blue light exposure alters/delays output of melatonin)
Causing or worsening of myopia (translation: near-sightedness)
Eye Strain (can cause discomfort of the muscles around the eyes, headaches, poor concentration)
Certain waves of blue light (particularly pulsing fluorescents) can trigger migraines. (12)
Xeropthalmia (dry eyes, pronounced: zair-op-thal-me-uh)
Causing or worsening retinal cell deterioration and macular degeneration. Some sources say yes. Some say no. (9) (10) Translation: "Damage to the retina can cause vision problems such as age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to permanent vision loss. Up to 9% of people will experience macular degeneration, which is the most-common reason for blindness in adults in the western world." (5) Define Retina? "the area at the back of the eye that receives light and sends pictures of what the eye sees to the brain." (6) Define Macular Degeneration? "is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. The retina’s central portion, known as the macula, is responsible for focusing central vision in the eye, and it controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail." (7) What had happened was... "a number of animal studies show direct evidence of retinal damage following blue light exposure, almost all of them used radiation levels far in excess of natural conditions." (11) The point of this is still relevant though: high doses of blue light exposure did cause damage to the eyes of mice that could or did lead to blindness. What we as humans should be more concerned with are long-term, lower/shorter doses of blue light exposure. We don't know if exposure is additive, meaning, do the minutes and hours we spend staring at blue light and living in fluorescence add up? I think of it as smoking 3 packs a day for 5 years vs. smoking 1 pack a day for 15 years. Or, gaining 100 pounds in 1 year vs. gaining 100 pounds over 5 years? Is the end result the same? That's what "we don't know yet" when it comes to blue light and our eyes.
Extra factor associated with ("correlated with" or potentially co-occuring but not "caused by") blue light : sedentary activities, prolonged periods of not moving or walking or leading to lack of exercise. Translation: sitting or lying down too much and not moving around because we are staring at screens for too long. Which, someone reading this will definitely (hopefully silently) argue, that's a result of device usage in general, not of blue light exposure. K. got it.
People with cataracts - great news! Cloudy eyes filter out blue light better than clear eyes. Bad news - you have cataracts. Blue light has not been shown to worsen cataracts. (5)
Night shift workers - bad news! Science once called y'all “a model for internal desynchronization,” ... known to experience increased morbidity and mortality for a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disorders and cancer." (8)
Good news? Your paycheck is bigger and you deal with less administrative B.S. Many would argue - #WorthIt LOL
Sooooooooo... the bottom line is, likely, your cell phone and computer are not causing cataracts and macular degeneration. But they may be causing other problems. If you are having headaches, symptoms of eye strain, or trouble in very fluorescently (i made that word up) lit stores/places - blue light filtering glasses may be good for you! (11)
I have mentioned insomnia at various points in this blog, and also shared a book called "Goodnight Mind" that was the main tool that ended up helping me to cure my insomnia. It was HARD and it took 2 years for me to get past it. I had insomnia for multiple reasons.
Eliminating phone and TV screens 1-2 hours before I wanted to be asleep was a big part of accomplishing that.
Everything in my life got better when I was sleeping correctly and enough.
I absolutely 100% fall back into these bad late-evening screen time habits - but my brain is now so well-trained like a dang first place show dog, that it goes to sleep and it stays asleep even when I challenge it.
What makes us sleep? Hormones. Neurotransmitters. Circadian Rhythms. They ring around the rosie and help us take a break every day.
What is a circadian rhythm? Complicated that's what it is. It's your body's natural, built-in, automatic sleep-wake cycle. Believe it or not, you were a child once. And when you were a child, you did not need coffee or coke or energy drinks or adderall or cocaine to wake you up in the mornings. You were just up. You also did not require Unisom, Ambien, Restoril, a bottle of wine or a Xanax to sleep at night, barring extreme traumatic circumstances. You just... fell asleep. Some nights it was harder than others because maybe you had an exciting day, like your birthday party, or you were starting school tomorrow or going on vacation. But you did fall asleep... all on your own. Gold star! (15) I'm also here to tell you, you can retrain your adult brain to do those things again...
Because ya know what you weren't doing? You weren't TikTok'ing and SnapChatting and Facebooking and selfie-ing and IG'ing and Googling and YouTubing and whatever else apps all the children are addicted to these days. Grown ups too. Maybe you were playing SuperNintendo too late and your mom came in and caught you. But it wasn't a nightly thing. Except in summer time. And you know what else you did in summer time? You stay UP way later than normal! And you slept til noon. See what I did there? #Adulting doesn't have sleeping til noon in it unless you are a night shifter!
Hormones are released after signaling chemicals are released from our brains. What's the main one for sleep that we all know and love? Everybody together now - Melatonin!
Melatonin works opposite of Cortisol. When your Melatonin-Cortisol balance is off : insomnia, weight gain, fatigue, cravings, increased appetite, mood swings and more! But that's another topic for another day and hopefully a guest writer!
How does blue light affect Melatonin? That's how we'll close out.
While the exposure to blue is important for keeping organism's wellbeing, alertness, and cognitive performance during the day, chronic exposure to low‐intensity blue light directly before bedtime, may have serious implications on sleep quality, circadian phase and cycle durations. (8)
If you want the long winded study on light, our eyes and circadian rhythm, click source #8. But I'm talking this is some EEG alpha theta delta neuroptic nucleus type heaviness LOL.
Blue light is so effective at suppressing melatonin and improving mood and alertness, that it is a therapy used in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (depression in the winter).
The study I'm speaking to measured "lux" exposure. Putting people in front of different brightness-es and measuring their melatonin levels, reaction times and also subjective factors like how they felt, etc.. Here are the key points from the study in a list format(17):
"1 hour of 1000 lx exposure by night being sufficient to reduce melatonin levels to a daytime average.." a tad bit more info on this one-liner (skip this if you're over it): Light can be measured in different ways. One unit of measurement is called a lux, which describes how much light falls on a certain area. (This is different from a unit of lumens, which tells you the total amount of light emitted by a light source.) The number of lux gets smaller as you get farther away from a light source. This makes sense if you think about it: a light bulb looks much dimmer if you are standing 100 feet away from it instead of up close—even though it is still emitting the same total amount of light in lumens. Typical outdoor lux levels can range from less than 1/1,000 lux on a dark night to more than 30,000 lux in direct sunlight! (16)
"low levels of illumination are sufficient to trigger awakening..."
"Blue light proved superior to other wavelengths in enhancing responses in the left frontal and parietal cortices..." (your thinking-hard parts of your brain)
"...quicker auditory reaction times and fewer lapses of attention..."
"Blue wavelengths suppressed sleep‐associated delta brainwaves better than green wavelengths and boosted the alpha wavelengths, which are related to alertness."
"...short wavelengths, perceived as blue color, might be used to control sleepiness..." This is great if you're super depressed and sleeping 23 hours a day or a narcoleptic, not great if you're an average adult human.
Do any of these sound like what you need at the end of a long day when you need to sleep?
"Circadian disruption is mainly characterized by misalignment between the internal circadian rhythms and the external environmental conditions."
As little as 30 minutes to 2 hours of exposure to e-books, phone, tablet, or laptop screens may reduce your melatonin to day time levels and can delay REM sleep (deep sleep) onset by 30 minutes! (17) (16)
So, if you're laying there at night forever and you are tired in the mornings, put the nighttime filter on your phone, put away your computers and iPads and gaming pads for the kids... turn off the TV at least 30 minutes before bed time and READ a real book, or magazine... one that's made of paper, that you hold..and turn it's pages. It's good.