March 24, 2019

Is Digital Eye Strain Hindering Your Health Goals?

Fatigue, pain, anxiety, random afternoon/evening sugar cravings or even a sluggish metabolism?

The following symptoms are closely linked to disrupted sleep cycles. Sleep is extremely impactful when it comes to our mood, productivity and how well we feel in our bodies. At some point in a client’s journey, we discuss their sleep routine and the impact artificial light exposure can be on their bodies ability to recover.

One consistent trend I’ve seen in the last few years, is that the more time exposed to screens emitting artificial blue light the more difficulties clients have with sleep, and soon to follow suit are the below symptoms: fatigue, pain, anxiousness, and some metabolic compromises.

In this blog, I’ll share with you the repercussions of blue light exposure, the importance of protecting your eyes and it’s impact on our health.

Historically as humans, we would use candlelight to guide our way at night. Currently, we now have the availability to use electricity to help us read, to keep us entertained and work well into the night.

I’d like to paint a picture for you, before we start getting into some science.

It’s 8pm. You just finished hammering out emails, calls and meetings. You’re tired, hungry and ready to call it a day. The sun has just gone down and you can feel your body begin to settle into your evening routine. You’re craving a quiet and relaxing dinner. You exhale the stress of the day, but then, your phone blinks. You received a notification from a coworker saying “Urgent!” You rush over to your laptop, flip it open and begin reading the email. Before you know it, an hour has passed, dinner is cold and the sensation of calling it a night has quickly passed.

After two hours, you close up your laptop, scarf down dinner and try to head to bed hoping you’ll fall asleep from exhaustion. But, as you lay there, you can’t. Your body and even your brain seem to be exhausted, yet you’re awake and it’s midnight. You ask yourself “Why am I awake?” You toss and turn for another hour before you decide to take melatonin to help you fall asleep.

Does this story sound familiar? Maybe you’ve heard your friends talk about this or maybe it’s something you’ve experienced personally.

Hours of “screen time” can inhibit melatonin production. Melatonin, is a hormone made in the brain that is secreted at night when our bodies move into “recovery” mode. At night is when our bodies heal, repair and detox. However, without adequate time spent in a sleep state, we may notice that upon waking we feel fatigue, an increase of body aches/pains, brain fog, over time weight fluctuations, impatience and an increased level of anxiety.

“Melatonin’s main job in the body is to regulate night and day cycles or sleep-wake cycles. Darkness causes the body to produce more melatonin, which signals the body to prepare for sleep. Light decreases melatonin production and signals the body to prepare for being awake.” – WebMD

When we’re ready to head to bed, our bodies begin preparing us for rest. We slow down, start to yawn and find the couch to be extra cozy. But, the moment we look at our phones later in the evening, the light essentially tells our brain “it’s not time for rest, it’s time to be awake. It’s day time.” We create confusion. Our brain then begins upregulating cortisol and adrenaline, to help keep us awake, even when our bodies feel tired.

Night after night, we repeat this cycle further suppressing the secretion of melatonin. Further disrupting our sleep rhythm and creating more distress in the body. We wake up consistently fatigued, anxious, and achy.

So what are the dangers of blue light?

The blue light emitted by screens reaches deeper into the eye. Its cumulative effect can cause damage to the retina. Prolonged exposure to blue light also causes symptoms of eyestrain, eye fatigue, migraines, and dry eyes.

As I mentioned above, it’s common to find yourself feeling more irritable and fatigued due to strained eyes. We often turn towards food to help soothe the discomfort. We resort to more sugary foods because our brain needs glucose to function. It makes sense why many of us crave an afternoon sugar “pick me up”, we’re drained, tired and in need of fuel.

More than 70% of the sensory information we take in from the environment around us, we take in through our eyes. Our eyes provide us with a tremendous amount of information to help determine how safe we are, how well we move, and how well we feel.

Consistent exposure to blue light at night, leads to an increase in stress. Remember our brain cannot compartmentalize stress. The stress from artificial light can have the same impact on our hormones as stress from over-exercising or under-eating.

So what can we do if part of life is lived behind screens?

  • At all costs, minimize your blue light exposure later in the day. This means, setting reminders to spend less hours working on your laptop, less time spent scrolling through instagram and more time spent by candlelight. If this is unrealistic (because of your current work life), I’d suggest investing in a pair of blue blocking glasses.

  • Blue blocking glasses, do just that, they block blue light. I’m wearing glasses from Pixel Eyewear. The quality is phenomenal! They’re a huge improvement from the yellow/orange lens I was wearing. Pixel Eyewear glasses provide the following benefits:

    1. Reduce computer glare

    2. Ease symptoms of eye strain

    3. Block damaging blue light

    4. Resist scratches and smudges

    5. Repel dust and water

    6. Block 100% UV light

    7. Reduce color and image distortion

    8. The lenses filter 50% of blue light and up to 95% at the strongest wavelengths without the yellow tint.

  • Dim and warm the colors of your screens in your Settings. You can also download f.lux. It’s a free software I have on my Mac.

  • During the winter months, be mindful of consuming more melatonin rich foods. Here are my top suggestions:

    1. Fruits: cherries, pomegranate, grapes

    2. Vegetables: asparagus, tomatoes, olives, cucumber)

    3. Rice and rolled oats

    4. Walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds

    5. Olive oil

  • Take breaks away from the screen to walk (ideally outside)

As I mentioned, more than 70% of the sensory information we take in from the environment around us, we take in through our eyes. Our eyes provide us with a tremendous amount of information to help determine how safe we are, how well we move, and how well we feel. It’s important for us to not only protect them but to also train them.

I attached below two of my top vision exercises for you to do when you take your screen breaks.

Above, I’m taking Miles through “Pencil Push ups”. A vision drill to help train convergence (eyes move together) and divergence (eyes pull apart).

Above, I’m showing an example of a “Visual Reset” Drill. One of the most powerful ways to alleviate head tension and pain.

My friends over at Pixel Eyewear have also kindly offered a discount code to help you save $5 on your first pair. You can use ‘coachalyssa’ when you purchase your own pair! I’m wearing the Capra in Whisky Turquoise.

If we can destress our bodies, by simply protecting our eyes from blue light with blue blocking glasses, pursuing our health goals will be far more enjoyable and achievable.

Also, if interested in creating a larger support network, please join me on my private Facebook group. I aim to open up conversations that help all of us feel more supported.


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