You may not know it yet, but that bright overhead work lighting may be giving you insomnia… and more. Energy-efficient light bulbs, your computer, and your phone contain light-emitting diodes (LEDs). LEDs contain a mix of yellow and blue light to give you the intense white and brightness. While energy efficient, overexposure could be bad for your health.
Though sunlight is the largest source of blue light, exposure has greatly increased in other ways with the use of artificial light sources. Many new overhead lighting systems in today’s facilities use LED technology and emit larger amounts of blue light than ever before; even the back-lit screens on your digital devices use LEDs. Think of places you visit regularly, the doctor, the mall, the grocery store, and yes, even your workplace environment – all these places expose blue light to your eyes.
The problem is, not all colors of light have the same effect on individuals. According to Harvard research, blue light is the culprit of several known health issues over long periods1.
Blue light isn’t necessarily bad. A huge benefit of blue wavelengths is that they’re important during daylight hours to help you boost attention, reaction times, and mood.
However, it’s the increase in means and longevity of exposure that can bring on negative effects. Over time, too much exposure to blue light during working hours via working in bright warehouses, manufacturing facilities, automotive plants, and more can cause damage to the eye.
Blue light’s short wavelengths penetrate to the back of the eye, harming the retina cells. Long-term, that damage can lead to macular degeneration, a condition in which a person loses his or her central vision (peripheral vision is unaffected) and can no longer see fine details. The worst part is, such damage can develop slowly over time, and effects are irreversible.
Back to “bright overhead lighting may be giving you insomnia” – the added proliferation of energy-efficient [LED] light sources and electronics with screens is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially at work and after sundown. The combination of blue light with nighttime seems to be when it is most disruptive.
Here’s why: the same reasons that blue light is good for you during the day is why it is bad for you at night; it disrupts your biological clock (also known as your circadian rhythm). Exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep), and the lower melatonin levels might explain the association with sleepless nights and daytime fatigue. Sleepless nights lead to short-term lack of sleep or insomnia, which impairs cognitive function thus affecting memory, attention span, and the ability to reason.
What’s worse is that if persistent, insomnia can eventually contribute to serious physical and mental health problems, with research showing that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity2.
In fact, a study found a 60 percent higher incidence rate of breast cancer in nurses and attributed it to the blue component in light used in facilities during the night shift3.
The good news is that many of the eye issues listed above are preventable. The number one safety measurement you can take is to wear safety glasses that reduce harmful blue light. This is recommended for workplaces who have workers with prolonged exposure to harsh artificial light sources (mainly LED lighting), access to digital devices for extended periods of time, and especially for those working the night shift.
If you do not have access to blue light safety eyewear, here are some tips that you can implement right now to help mitigate the effects of blue light:
Take your safety a step further with HexArmor®. We’ve got a new eyewear solution, the CBR65® lens, that will help you get your sleep back.
The CBR65® lens by HexArmor® is a revolution in eyewear protection, giving workers more Contrast enhancement, Blue light reduction, and Relaxed vision with 65% transmission – thus the CBR65® name. CBR65® not only absorbs around 50% of blue light, but also provides better contrast and 65% visible light transmission, both indoors and outdoors.
Are you or your workers at risk? Download your very own Blue Light Assessment Checklist to use in your workplace.