Improve Your Health

Improve Your Health! Get Less Blue Light (& More Natural Light)

Wellness

If you’re like most people on the planet, the coronavirus pandemic caused you to reframe your priorities.

There’s a refreshed focus on family and health. This has led to a surge in applications for life insurance. It has also led many of you to realize why you need health insurance, whatever your age.

Health insurance is not only a safety net for emergencies and major illnesses or injuries. It also encourages preventative care by covering your checkups, screenings, and tests.

Improving your lifestyle can help you prioritize family and health by attaining better health with the added benefit of lowering costs. And we have a way to motivate you to better abide by the medical community’s eat-right-and-exercise mantra for preventative care.

Getting more natural light and less blue light is a healthy choice that may not only improve your health but also save you money on your life and health insurance.

Too many of us are being exposed to too much screen time and not enough sunlight, a situation exacerbated by the sudden consequences and its aftermath many months later. We want to shed some light on how to fix that imbalance.

What is blue light?

You’ve probably heard a lot about blue light being harmful. Let’s get technical for a moment and define blue light before we move on to its effects.

Blue light is a color in the visible light spectrum that is a short wavelength, meaning it produces higher amounts of energy. It’s commonly emitted artificially by our devices and by fluorescent and LED lighting.

How Blue Light Can Affect You?

Light is the principal control of our day-night cycle. It influences everything from body temperature to metabolism to sleep.

And blue light can actually be beneficial. It boosts alertness and helps improve memory and cognitive function. During the daylight hours, the blue light emitted by the sun helps our circadian rhythm, which sets our sleep and wake cycles. And blue-light therapy can improve acne, clear up actinic keratosis and plaque psoriasis, and treat basal cell carcinoma tumors.

How can blue light be harmful?

The concern about blue light mainly centers on eye damage in regards to natural blue light. It could lead to permanent vision changes, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

When it comes to artificial blue light, there are many concerns beyond eye damage, which can also result in macular cellular damage, as well as cause computer vision syndrome, with symptoms including dry and irritated eyes, blurred vision, headaches, and fatigue.

Prolonged exposure to this type of blue light, especially in the evening, can also affect your sleep. It causes your body to reduce its release of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. 

Delaying or disrupting your sleep cycle can cause you to develop an elevated risk of hormone-related cancers (such as breast and prostate), lower levels of leptin (a chemical that signals fullness after meals), and metabolic changes, especially blood sugar.

The concern is deep because usage of blue-light emitting devices is higher than ever, especially with cell phones. And high-end smartphones have the brightest displays, producing an increase in melatonin suppression value (MSV) of 15% to 30%. 

According to a Nielsen Company report, U.S. adults spend nearly half a day interacting with media — over 11 hours. And that was pre-pandemic in 2018.

How to Reduce Blue Light Exposure?

Luckily, there are a variety of tricks you can employ to be smarter about dealing with artificial blue light, through reducing time, reducing intensity, or both.

Now that the restrictions are easing and people can get out and about, tear yourself away from your screens in favor of options, including directly interacting with nature and reconnecting with others in person.

You can also adopt the habit of turning off your laptop and phone at least two hours before bedtime.

Reduce blue light intensity organically by holding your phone as far as possible from your eyes and sitting as far back as you can from the rest of your screened devices. You can also go techy by checking the settings on your devices. Most phones and tablets let you control the level of blue light your screen emits.

You can also reduce blue-light screen frequency from your screens with blue light blockers, such as blue light blocking glasses and blue light blocking screens.

Other ways to reduce blue light exposure from screens are to blink more often, take frequent breaks, and clean your screen since a smudge-free, dust-free screen helps reduce glare.

When it comes to actual lighting, be choosy about the types of lighting you use, where you use it, and when you use it:

  • Switch to softer, dimmer lamps several hours before bedtime.
  • Opt for newer LED lighting in a variety of warmer, blue-depleted tones.
  • Look into smart technology, such as lamps that automatically change with the day.
  • Equip bedside lamps with warmer-only bulbs.
  • Choose blue-depleted nightlights.

And when you’re watching TV at night, turn the lights off. It’ll make you feel as if you’re in a movie theater. If that’s too dark for you, do what my husband and I do, especially when watching a scary movie or live-streaming a concert: turn on a bunch of battery-operated votives. It enhances the atmosphere — and allows you to see where the popcorn bowl is.

How to Get More Natural Light?

Fortunately, you don’t need to devote a large amount of time (or money) to get the right amount of natural light. And most ways to get it are free or very affordable.

The main challenge is in the timing. Here are some tips to reduce light pollution in your life. 

a. Get Proper Sun Exposure

Just a small dose of sunlight a day will do wonders for you, boosting your mood, increasing vitamin D production, regulating your internal clock, and even possibly preventing nearsightedness.

The optimal time is in the morning when sunlight is somewhat less intense, so it poses less risk of damaging your skin.

The optimal amount is 30 to 45 minutes without a sun visor or sunglasses, and you can wear sunscreen if you want.

b. Exercise outside to get more sunlight exposure

You can double your health benefits by exercising when you head outside to get your morning dose of sun. As the pandemic caused gyms and health clubs to close, many fitness instructors kept their clients fit and their businesses alive by moving exercise outdoors.

So you have more opportunities available to you if you want to go the group fitness route. Or, if you’re not up to outdoor boot camp, simply take a walk. While this is easier to fit in if you work from home, it’s still feasible for many office workers. 

Instead of staying inside and scrolling on social media, I’ve learned to take care of my health while working from home by walking around my neighborhood before logging on to work.

If you don’t need or want outdoor activity, you can sit on your patio and have breakfast or read the morning newspaper as long as the light is hitting you directly. Even if the day is overcast, the sunlight will still have its effect.

And if you can’t devote that amount of time in one sitting (or exercise session), get similar amounts of sun exposure by opening windows, weather permitting, while you’re getting ready for school or work or while you’re driving.  

Ways to Increase Natural Light in Your Home

If you’re building a new home or you want to make some home improvements, you could opt for a trending window style: wall windows. You would also install sliding glass doors, replace existing windows with larger ones, or incorporate skylights into areas where natural light doesn’t reach.

And if time, budget, and opportunity only allow for lower-scale improvements, you can lighten your window treatments. Finally, here’s a very affordable tip to increase the natural lighting in your home: Simply wash your windows.

a. Try Artificial Alternatives to Natural Light

I can personally attest to how challenging it can be to get a small dose of sunlight every day. 

When I moved from southern California to Boston for a promotion, my first winter there found me depressed and irritable. I thought it was the stress of the move and my heightened job responsibilities. When I expressed concern to my next-door neighbor, she replied, “Oh, you just have SAD. We can clear that up!”

I had never heard of seasonal affective disorder, so obviously, I hadn’t heard of using a natural light lamp as a way to relieve it. To humor my neighbor, I bought a SAD light therapy lamp and skeptically sat in front of it for 20 minutes a day. 

Within a week, my husband, my boss, and my colleagues remarked on the difference in my personality. I was delighted to get back on track so easily and quickly so that I could sleep better, stop craving junk food, and perform well at work. 

We hope we’ve shown you how and when to turn on the right light to be physically, mentally, and financially happier.