Your lightbulb moment – what’s so bad about blue?

You may have heard that blue light is not good for us. It triggers a ‘good morning’ response in our brain, meaning we can never truly switch off. But very few of us realise that it’s the baseline in almost every light we use.

It’s not just phones and computer or television screens – LED light has traditionally used blue light as its source, too (with a special coating to create the impression of a pure white light).

That means even reading your paperback under a warm yellow bedside light can damage your Circadian rhythm (the natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle over a 24 hour period).

True blue

It’s not as simple as blue being bad, though.

As Dr Shelley James, a specialist in the impact of light on our psychology, neuro-responses and ophthalmic development, explains: “Not all blue light is bad; in fact, it’s essential. Those blue wavelengths are naturally present in sunlight. But the brightness and balance of wavelengths or colours of light, change over the course of the day, from more high-energy blue in the morning, to softer warmer yellow in the evening, fading again to twilight and the cool night sky after the sun goes down.

“This sequence gives us – and every single living thing under the sun – vital clues about the time of day. A powerful rhythm that governs every aspect of our lives.”

So why are most LEDs blue?

Until now, blue has offered the most efficient way to produce light and, if we remember why LED became so popular in the first place, it was created to save energy; superseding halogen and fluorescent capacity to produce more lumen per watt (light output vs. energy consumed).

Thus, it made sense to start here when the LED was invented. However, in the current climate our LED exposure is, quite simply, too much blue: a sort of overdose that leads to massive overstimulation in our systems.

Of course, your lights may not appear blue – that’s thanks to a phosphor overlay that changes the colour we see to a warm yellow or cool white, but our brains perceive light in its visible spectrum layers so they pick up on the sub-layer of blue anyway. This is a fairly recent discovery that shows we are still responding to the piercing spike of blue.

Covid 19 and subsequent lock-downs have made the situation even worse – but even before that, the average adult reported spending up to 23 hours out of every 24 under artificial light.

“It’s like salt,” explains Dr James. “Some can be a very positive part of our diets, but there’s no need to sprinkle it everywhere!”

So how does it affect us?

Our bodies follow the natural rhythm of the sun. This is what’s known as our Circadian Rhythm. Until 1879 there was nothing but the sun, the moon and fire to light our way. And it’s been less than 10 years since LED has been in mainstream use. In the grand scheme of seven million years of human evolution, it’s not surprising that the sudden spike of blue light in our lives is having an impact.

When exposed to excess blue light throughout the day we are in constant over-stimulation. It is generally accepted that this causes a headachy malaise which we have all experienced at one time or another.

Dr James states: “We are only just beginning to understand the impact of exposure to strong blue light in the evening – and the knock-on disruption to the Circadian sleep-wake cycle. But studies of shift-workers show a massive increase in obesity, depression and reduced life expectancy including death from cancer and accidents.

So I have to live by candlelight? – “It’s obviously not possible – or even desirable – to remove blue light from our lives – or to stop using LED lighting,” says Dr James. In the immediate term you can do a few things to mitigate risk of too much blue light in your home:

Assess your home – where is there cool lighting, and where is it warm? Cool light will encourage greater alertness. Warmer is better for rooms where you want to relax, such as the bedroom and sitting room. Remember though that they will still contain levels of blue light unless you use a violet source, full-spectrum bulb.

Try to spend at least two hours outside every day.

Cover up – there are now a variety of screen covers and softwares for different devices that help to reduce the effects of blue light

Discover the world’s only Circadian friendly lighting solution! – The latest RAY ranges were created with wellbeing and health in mind, using violet as the main light source for the Calm range and a ‘Nature’s blue’, low-level source chip for the Dynamic range. Both ranges result in a light that replicates the sun’s rays, achieving colour rendering ratings of 97+. Created by UK start-up, RAY Lighting, SunRAY lighting solutions are the first of their kind to be available on the market and even incorporate Flicker Free Bridging Technology.

Learn more about blue light’s cousin – the flicker factor: click here

Explore the beautiful SunRAY lighting range, and pre-order here

Created by the UK start-up, RAY Lighting, the SunRAY ranges introduce world-first innovations to achieve a truly Circadian friendly range of LED bulbs using BlueBalance Technology. Combining many years of experience in the lighting industry, a passion for beautiful design and a drive to bring organic, natural light into all aspects of our lives, RAY Lighting has succeeded in creating Full Spectrum, Flicker Free, violet chip and ‘Nature’s blue’ LEDGU10/MR16 form light bulbs amongst their family of products.

Learn more about the RAY story here. Our Aspirations