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Health Experts Amplify Warnings about Blue Light Exposure

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Eye-care professionals say limiting screen time before bedtime, using blue light-blocking filters on your devices, and wearing blue light-blocking glasses can all help protect from potential health risks.

With increased use of digital devices and computers in daily life, people are exposed to more and more blue light.

Health experts, including a Wisconsin doctor, say staying connected is one thing, but prolonged exposure poses health risks. In addition to the sun, digital screens are a source of blue light.

Dr. Bryce Christopherson, a Wisconsin board licensed optometrist, said one risk from overexposure is interfering with the body's circadian rhythm, the "internal clock" which regulates a person's sleep cycle.

"If you're working on a tablet, your computer, or smartphone or whatever before you go to sleep, that can make it harder to fall asleep," Christopherson pointed out.

A lack of sleep can produce problems, such as lower productivity and headaches. He suggested wearing blue-light-blocking glasses when looking at a screen for long periods.

Other tips include taking breaks around every 20 minutes from digital screens, by looking at something else at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. And of course, limit screen time before bed.

Dr. Scott Edmonds, chief eye care officer for UnitedHealthcare Vision, said specialists became concerned during the pandemic about blue-light exposure as more people were relying heavily on digital screens at home. He worries soon, some of the same concerns will surface about blue light that happened with ultraviolet light.

"The photo receptors can certainly process blue light, but it puts a lot of strain on them," Edmonds explained. "And we're concerned that over time, the retina will become damaged, and we'll start to see age-related macular degeneration from this, like we did with UV light."

In addition to taking screen breaks, eye-care professionals recommend making sure your computer screens are clear and clean, as researchers continue to study potential dangers.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.