How much time do you spend looking at screens? Considering I work mostly online, not including the time I spend just playing around, I spend at least 6 hours a day on my computer alone. That doesn’t count every time I look at my phone, either. I feel like I look at my phone at least once an hour now, which I’m aware is totally absurd.

You’ve probably heard about blue light, which mimics every day light and comes from electronic screens. You’ve probably read somewhere that looking at your phone/computer/TV, or even having the lights on too close to bedtime, can affect your circadian rhythms. This means your sleep is interrupted and you won’t feel as tired.

Okay, fine, you’ve probably thought, knowing that your sleep is important to your health, but maybe if you get around 6-8 hours it’s not that bad.
Well, as it turns out, blue light is worse than we think. According to an article by Harvard, and a new study published in Nature, blue light can cause macular degeneration.

“Using live cell imaging and optogenetic signaling control, we uncovered that blue light-excited ATR and 11CR irreversibly change/distort plasma membrane (PM) bound phospholipid; phosphatidylinositol 4,5 bisphosphate (PIP2) and disrupt its function. This distortion in PIP2 was independent of visual or non-visual G-protein coupled receptor activation. The change in PIP2 was followed by an increase in the cytosolic calcium, excessive cell shape change, and cell death” (Ratnayake, Payton, Lakmal, and Karunarathne. Scientific Reports volume 8, Article number: 10207 (2018)).

In case you’re unaware, macular degeneration, in layman’s terms, is permanent eye damage that can lead to blindness. From how much I spend in front of screens, I already know my eyesight has already been affected. I’ve already seen floaters and assumed that maybe floaters were just a normal result of aging. NOPE (maybe that’s true, but not in this case).

Dessine-moi un mouton... by Bastien HAJDUK on
This news was particularly alarming for me, a former film student, who used to spend 8+ hours in the editing labs overnight, staring at Macs until 4am. It’s particularly alarming for me, someone who stares at my computer writing articles like these, after writing hundreds of these articles, painstakingly checking links and designing layouts, etc. if your job requires that you be in front of a screen (secretary, designer, computer engineer, literally anything because it’s 2018), you need to take action and you should take action now.
Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to protect yourself. You can purchase a pair of those interesting orange-tinted computer glasses (the good ones are like $50 and anything that’s not orange apparently is a piece of crap). You can get screen protectors for your computer and phone that block blue light.
Best brands for glasses (none of them are cute. There’s nothing you can do):
Low Blue Lights
Best brands for screen protectors:
Eyes PC
RoscoLux (but this is a lighting gel company, so idk)
or…. you can do what I did and after scouring the Internet for anything imaginable, resort to apps that change your screen for you. I don’t know if these applications provide enough protection, so I’ll probably end up purchasing some glasses, but UNTIL THEN, here are some solid app options that I found.
If you have a Mac computer or Apple iPhone, you can easily choose “Night Mode” in your settings and choose to set the time/intensity to whatever and whenever you want. I have a Mac and I’ve been using this option for a few weeks now. I really like it. It comes on when I teach classes and turns off later at night. Most people might benefit from the opposite timing, but it’s up to you! 🙂 It’s free, it’s easy. It’s good.
If you have an android phone, I highly recommend the Twilight app on the Google Play store. There are others, but this is the only one I’ve tested so far. It works similarly to Night Mode and it is just as customizable. I have mine set to always on and you can pause it whenever you want in the notification bar.
f.lux is available for PC, Mac, iPhone, and Android. It’s free for Mac and I’m not sure about the other devices, but I used it before Night Mode was available. It’s a little less customizable than the other apps, but it works.

Getting used to an orange-y screen may be annoying, but it’s worth it to save your eyes. Have you used a blue-light filter? Do you have glasses or screen covers? Let me know in the comments below.

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Photo Credit: Maja Topcajic