As another University term begins, the prospect of endless hours spent huddled over a laptop springs into reality. But have you thought about how this — and other factors — affect your eyes and sleep? Even how these two are linked?
Substantial screen time and blue light exposure combine to create eye and sleep problems. The downside is significant. The study Effects of Blue Light on Cognitive Performance found that continuous exposure to blue light diminishes mood, cuts memory performance, and alters the circadian rhythm. It’s not a jump to see how this might make study more difficult, leading to lower grades and academic success. It can also be downright painful (more on this soon).
So, to the most important question first…
Could you, as a student, be at risk?
The American Optometric Association revealed that, on average, workers spend seven hours each day sat at their computer. Sound like a lot? As a student, this figure pales in comparison. Research conducted at Baylor University found the standard college students spend a staggering 10 hours every day on their smartphone. When combined with computer, eReader, tablet and television use, more than half a student’s life is regularly consumed by staring at one type of screen or another.
But each of these devices are backlit: brightened with wavelengths including blue light. This comes with serious consequences…
Blue light: a student problem
Why should you worry about blue light and screen time?
As the authors of a study published in the International Journal of Ophthalmology said, “Short-wave blue light with wavelength between 415 nm and 455 nm is closely related to eye light damage.” Ongoing exposure can permanently harm the cornea, crystal lens and the retina.
Then there are blue light’s other adverse impacts including diminished memory, mood, and sleep.
Blue light and insomnia: Your digital devices could be sabotaging your sleep
Blue light is gaining an undesired yet well-deserved reputation; it can hijack your sleep. Research has shown that exposure suppresses melatonin, known as the sleep hormone, and alters the circadian rhythm. This causes increased night time awakenings and shortens sleep length.
What is the worst time to be in front of a screen? Working late into the evenings and nights to complete those assignments and prep for exams. We know you can’t circumvent these long hours; they are an indispensable part of student progress and life. You can, however, protect against exposure.
The authors of the study Research progress about the effect and prevention of blue light on eyes provide this advice:
Minimise the use of electronic devices at night and avoid the effect of blue light on the secretion of melatonin at night, so as to ensure good sleep and eye closure time. When we use blue light rich product at night, the approved anti-blue light glasses or screen cover may be a good choice to avoid blue light-induced injury.
Protecting against the insults of blue light is crucial for student health. Then there are additional ails associated with the constant viewing of a screen. This includes computer vision syndrome.
Computer vision syndrome: Could you unknowingly be suffering from CVS?
Computer vision syndrome (CVS) is a diagnosis that did not exist when your older lecturers completed their studies. It is a relatively new phenomena birthed by our digital age.
How does CVS occur?
We can liken it to a gym workout. When you lift weights, you strain your skeletal muscles. This breaks tissue and allows reformation and growth. That’s why you need rest between each training sesh. In this way, screen viewing strains your eye muscles; it makes them work harder. But, there is little pause between sessions. There is no time for recovery. This can lead to vision-related and other symptoms.
The American Optometric Association noted, “At greatest risk for developing CVS are those persons who spend two or more continuous hours at a computer or using a digital screen device every day.” Students are particularly vulnerable, clocking well past this time with ease.
This is where the downright painful I mentioned earlier comes in. The most common symptoms experienced in computer vision syndrome include:
- Blurred vision
- Dry eyes
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
Speaking of the dry eyes of computer vision syndrome, why might they occur?
Dry eyes: the effect of visually demanding work
Dry eyes are a common complaint for students. It may seem strange at first but this could be because you’re not blinking enough. As you close your eyes momentarily, lubricant spreads across your eyeballs to provide essential hydrating fluid.
However, blink frequency substantially reduces while you’re engaged in cognitive, mentally, or visually demanding work; like acquiring complex knowledge and staring at a digital screen. Reading from tablets and computers also decreases the number of complete blinks. In essence, you subconsciously blink less and half-heartedly. The result is uncomfortable dry eyes.
How can you limit blue light exposure, computer vision syndrome and insomnia?
Oftentimes we spend more time on our digital devices than is required. Be conscious of your use. Switch off when you are able.
While you are in front of a screen, follow the American Optometric Association’s 20-20-20 rule: Take a 20 second break every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away.
Use a blue light filter
FDA-approved glasses, computer, laptop and smartphone screens are available. At Ocushield, we provide the world’s only medically approved, anti-blue light screen protectors that have been created by clinicians. Our patients and customers love them! Check out our self-cleaning iPhone 12 screen (because we love keeping up with the latest technology)!
While your studies place your eyes and sleep at risk, they don’t have to. Implementing sensible evidence-based steps will protect your sight and your slumber. You might notice your health and your grades improve too.
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