LED lights, like the kind in cell phones and lighting fixtures, have revolutionized the way we live our lives. They’re brighter, cheaper, use less energy, and last longer than traditional light bulbs.
But, when it comes to the effects on aging, these bright LED lights have a dark side. Here’s what you need to know…
According to researchers, exposure to the blue light coming from phones, computers and even LED (light emitting diodes) light fixtures is damaging to the body. And the damage worsens as we get older.
One of the latest studies indicates that this light can be particularly harmful to mitochondria, the little organelles in cells that provide them with the energy to function properly. If you’re not careful, researchers warn, this light damage can lead to chronic inflammation and restrict your body’s ability to heal from injury and illness, shortening your lifespan.
Constant Blue Light From LEDs Damages Your Cells
The health of your cells’ mitochondria is vitally important for your overall wellness. Remember, each mitochondria is a mini-power plant that provides a compound called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which yields chemical energy our cells require.
Laboratory tests at Oregon State University demonstrate that continual exposure to blue-light can throw a monkey wrench into the energy-producing pathways that mitochondria use to create ATP.
When the Oregon researchers first began their investigation, they expected to find that the mitochondria in retinal cells in the eye that detect blue light are affected by this light. But they were surprised to discover that cells in other organs – that don’t specialize in detecting light – were also harmed. And that type of harm accelerates with increasing age.1
The Oregon scientists emphasize that other factors related to aging also compromise mitochondria. But the blue light adds to their more rapid decline.
Researcher Jaga Giebultowicz, PhD, explains, saying, “We determined that specific reactions in mitochondria were dramatically reduced by blue light, while other reactions were decreased by age independent of blue light.”
Stay Away From the Blue Light at Night
Being exposed to blue light can be especially problematic at night, close to bedtime.
According to researchers in Japan, the blue light emitted by LEDs can cause many health problems. To the naked eye, these lights may look white, but they still contain heavy doses of blue light frequencies.
In their test on young men, the Japanese scientists found that exposure to LEDs right before bed reduced the amount of fat in the body that was burned during sleep.2
The researchers say that over the long term, that reduction in fat oxidation could lead to weight gain. They also discovered that the light from the LEDs changes the function of melatonin – the sleep hormone – at night during sleep, although they’ve not figured out every way its influence is altered.
The Benefits of Turning off Blue Light
Staying away from all that blue light could make a big difference in your life: Researchers at Indiana University have produced evidence that wearing glasses that filter out blue light at night can lead to a better night’s sleep and improve your energy and ability to do a better day’s work the next day.3
“We found that wearing blue-light-filtering glasses is an effective intervention to improve sleep, work engagement, task performance and organizational citizenship behavior, and reduced counterproductive work behavior,” says researcher Cristiano L. Guarana, PhD. “Wearing blue-light-filtering glasses creates a form of physiologic darkness, thus improving both sleep quantity and quality.”
So, if you want to limit your blue light exposure, wearing glasses that filter out blue light at night can help. So can making sure the light fixtures in your home do not use LED bulbs.
Some experts recommend what are called OLEDS (organic light-emitting diodes) which give off less blue light.
Computer screens can also be adjusted to give off less blue light. My computer, for instance, has a “night setting” that increases red light and limits how much blue light is emitted.
Another recommendation, which I’ve shared before, is to make sure you keep your bedroom at night as dark as possible. That can keep out all light as you sleep – including blue frequencies. Put up blackout curtains if necessary to keep out the light from streetlights or buildings and charge your devices away from your bed. All of these measures will not only help you sleep better, but the research also suggests they’ll help you age better too.