Ever find after a busy day at the office, you’ve got a dull ache around your head and eyes? Or maybe it’s only when you lie down to go to sleep you realise your temples are actually throbbing. It’s certainly not uncommon to experience the occasional headache or wave of fatigue given the insanely busy lifestyles most of us lead. But an ongoing pain could be a symptom of a bigger issue… (dramatic drum roll)... digital eye strain, caused by overexposure to artificial blue light. DES refers to a whole host of not-so-pleasant sounding symptoms, all associated with excessive screen time. Think fatigue, insomnia, irritability and yep - an achey head. It’s all because of the light our little screen friends give off…
Devices like smartphones, tablets, TVs and computers emit blue light, something that we normally receive via our skin and eyes from the sun. In this natural format, it’s beneficial, as it keeps us awake during daylight hours, gently encouraging us to wind down and go to sleep as darkness sets in. But in recent years, as mobile phones and laptops have become more integrated into our lives, we receive way more artificial blue light than previous generations. And unfortunately, it’s believed to have a whole host of negative health consequences for those of us glued to computers or phones 24/7. For one, research has shown that it may disrupt our sleep cycles. If the sun’s blue light naturally keeps us awake during the day, it makes sense that the artificial version could play havoc with our poor body clocks, especially if we’re the type for whom a ‘quick glance’ at Facebook in bed finds us intensely scrolling through our ex’s cousin’s sister’s flatmate’s photos at 4am. But can blue light be the cause of chronic headache too?
There’s been lots of research into this topic, as scientists strive to figure out the potential effects of what’s a relatively new phenomenon. The American Optometric Association for example says the most common symptoms of digital eye strain (also known as computer vision syndrome) are eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes and neck and shoulder pain. Yikes. Harvard Medical School researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center meanwhile conducted a study on 69 migraine sufferers in 2016. Exposing them to various intensities of blue, green, amber and red light (sounds like fun), subjects were asked if their headaches got better or worse at any point. Anyone who’s suffered from a migraine knows that light tends to make the intensity worse, and will often hide away in a dark room in the hopes of easing the pain. But actually, it’s not all light that sets off symptoms. Guess which one made it worse? Yup - researchers discovered that pesky blue light exacerbated sufferers’ pain, since “blue and red lights generate the largest signals in both the retina and the cortex”. (Incidentally, they also figured out that green light helped to ease migraine discomfort. Who’da thunk it?). It’s no surprise really, given that blue light is one of the highest energy colours on the spectrum, and as such we humans are incredibly susceptible to it.
We’re all guilty of screen time, whether it’s during our 9-5 in the office, absent-mindedly scrolling through Facebook while watching Game of Thrones on our smart TV, or having one last look at Instagram while lying in bed. It’s not surprising that cumulatively, this could lead to a pain in the head. One way to mitigate the effects of blue light though is to wear a special kind of lens in your glasses. Ambr offer a whole range of frames for all ages, in a host of colours and styles - discover more about us here, or click to read some great reviews of our products.