We might as well face it. Most of us spend a great amount of time daily looking at device screens. Computers, tablets, and smartphones are marvelous for all the access to information, communication, entertainment, and creative opportunities they present. What’s not so great is we are exposed to much more blue spectrum light from computer, tablet, and smartphone screens with LED (light emitting diode) backlights than we do from other common forms of lighting. The two most immediate concerns with too much blue light exposure are macular degeneration and sleep deprivation. Blue light can also cause general fatigue and eye strain, but let’s focus on the two most significant issues.
Generally, macular degeneration doesn’t occur until people are in the second half of their lives, then it’s referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It will be interesting to learn over time if that disease begins to occur sooner and can be linked directly to computing device blue light exposure. One factor that may contribute to blue light’s association with macular degeneration is that it also suppresses production of the protective pigment melanin. Sleep deprivation can occur because of being over-caffeinated or over-stimulated by what you’ve been watching, whether a game or video. Even without too much coffee or too many episodes of NCIS, however, the blue light from devices can prevent the formation of the natural hormone melatonin that helps regulate our sleep cycles.
The British firm Ocushield LTD is one of many companies that offer products that filter blue light. Ocushield is available in different sizes for specific popular smart phone models and also in larger sizes that can be trimmed to it tablets and laptops. The prices range from 10 to 25 British pounds (about $15 to $37).
Big questions remain about products like this. First, do they effectively block a significant amount of light in the wavelength ranges that are associated with retina damage and sleep problems? And even if they do, is there evidence that these filters reduce the effects of these ranges of blue light? Filters like these are not likely to do any additional harm, so it could be inexpensive insurance to try these out on your screens.