With more workers depending on computers and mobile devices to do their jobs, many professionals spend a substantial amount of time looking at screens — which emit blue light — just about every day.
What Is Blue Light, Anyway?
Blue light is the portion of the visible light spectrum with the shortest wavelengths and the highest energy. Some blue light in higher wavelengths (blue-turquoise light) is a good thing. It helps bodies regulate sleep and wake cycles, helps individuals stay alert and elevates their mood. However, harmful blue light in shorter wavelengths (blue-violet light) can cause eye strain and do serious harm to individuals’ eyesight if protective steps aren’t taken.
Where Is It?
Blue light is outdoors, produced by the sun, but can also be found indoors, coming from artificial light sources including electronic devices such as digital screens on computers, tablets and cellphones, as well as energy-efficient fluorescent and LED lighting.
Because professionals use computers and other devices now more than ever, there’s more overall exposure to blue light, and the effects are cumulative. Studies conducted at Harvard Medical School show that 60 percent of people spend at least six hours a day using digital devices.
How Is It Harmful?
Eyes have no natural filter for blue light. It can cause eye strain and eye fatigue and can disrupt natural sleep/wake cycles. It may also play a role in diseases of the retina — the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye that changes light rays into signals the brain then interprets as images — according to Blue Light Exposed. Retinal diseases include glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, both of which can lead to blindness. UV light and blue light can make the eye age faster as the damage builds over a lifetime.
Here are eight tips to help your employees reduce the harmful effects of blue light and decrease eye strain:
- Outside, workers should wear sunglasses that are polarized or tinted to filter out UV and harmful blue-violet light.
- Employees who wear glasses should make sure they have an anti-reflective coating that blocks harmful blue light. Transitions® lenses, for example, protect against blue light indoors and out.
- Those who don’t wear prescription glasses should also consider wearing non-prescription glasses that can help to protect against harmful blue light. Be sure that the glasses block only the harmful blue-violet, and not the beneficial blue-turquoise light.
- Limit the time workers spend looking at digital device screens, especially at night when the effects of blue light can disrupt sleep. This can be especially important for children.
- Ensure that employees use app settings or screen covers on computers, tablets or phone screens that filter blue light.
- Remind workers that when working in front of a digital screen, they can adjust the brightness of the screen and dim background lighting to reduce glare.
- Employees should take 20-20-20 breaks — every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away — according to the Harvard studies.
- Finally, workers should stay on top of eye health by seeing an eye doctor for routine eye exams.
Jason Kinzy is a marketing manager at Anthem, Inc. and is responsible for the promotion of Anthem’s specialty business (dental, vision, voluntary, life and disability plans) to members, employers and brokers. He has 20 years of health care marketing communications experience.