News, Culture & Society

Fighting the dark side of blue light

The world at large has had to get used to a new way of doing things courtesy of the pandemic, and doing just about everything online is now the new norm. Zoom classes and meetings are the order of the day, as are online shopping and entertainment.

Life is really happening remotely; yoga classes are just a click away on apps like Glo, groceries can be ordered and delivered within a few hours, and all your entertainment is available from Apple TV, Netflix, Hulu, etc. There is no more commuting to the office, then to the grocery store, then to a cinema or rental store for entertainment.

In Australia, according to Telsyte market research and tracking, the average number of devices connected to the internet per household is 19.7, with smartphones and TVs being the most common.

Looking at Costco online, the cheapest price for a 55” smart TV is $2 299.99; and a budget smartphone from Mobileciti is $108 – that’s an indication that retailers are dropping prices on entertainment devices to take advantage of the lockdowns and garner more customers.

While it is safer than going outside right now, spending a lot of time in front of our TV, smartphone and computer screens can have some long-term detrimental effects for children and adults alike. Blurred vision, eyestrain, dry eye, macular degeneration, and cataracts have all been related to blue light from electronics.

Some people even have difficulty sleeping after staring at a screen for so long. As a result, we need to figure out how to perform what we need to in front of our screens, while maintaining our eye health.

There are several smart ways in which people can have screen time and still maintain good eye health. Below are a few pointers to strike the right balance to mitigate any damage to your eyes.

Get computer glasses

Wearing special computer glasses that have lenses that lower blue light exposure is a very effective way of reducing eye strain. The effect is similar to using blue light filters. Your eyes will feel less tired at the end of your screen use, and your sleeping pattern will not be affected, especially if your screen use is mainly in the evening.

Use low blue light settings on your devices

On Apple devices, there’s a setting called ‘Night Shift’. Note; It’s not there on Apple watches, you will have to change your watch face to one that isn’t as bright. And on Android devices, it varies from ‘Night Light, Sleep Mode or Reading Mode’, depending on the manufacturer. Turning this on will reduce exposure to blue light, and hence lower the chances of your eyes getting hurt, or your sleep pattern is altered.

Keep your eyes moist

Dry eyes are uncomfortable and cause irritation. Long periods spent staring at a screen might cause your eyes to become dehydrated. You may use eyedrops to alleviate symptoms of dryness or just remember to blink more frequently. Research has shown that we tend to blink less when using our computers or concentrating on watching TV; this, in turn, leads to eye dryness.

Try some supplements

A small study found that taking lutein and zeaxanthin supplements for 6 months reduced eye strain, poor sleep quality, and headaches caused by too much screen time. Consult your doctor first to see if these supplements are right for you.

Have yearly eye check-ups

Regular eye check-ups will allow you to deal with any developing eye conditions and help maintain healthy eyes.

Change your computer

If you have the means to, buy a new computer altogether. Computer technology out there has advanced to a stage where screens now come with in-built blue light filters that are able to limit the quantity of light that reaches your eyes without the screen turning orange or yellow in colour as do the older screens when you move them away. The latest XPS laptops range from Dell or HP’s Spectre convertibles are great examples.

As you do all this, make sure it’s not just for you, but for all those in your household using computers or any electronic devices that you look at for long periods. Monitor the time your children spend watching or playing videos online as well so that you can also reduce screen time and avoid the many issues they could encounter as they grow.