Before the invention of artificial lighting, the sun was our primary source of light. This meant that people mostly spent their evenings in darkness — a reality most of us can no longer fathom, as it has become second nature to flip on the switch when we walk in the house upon returning home in the evening. It’s true that we have become accustomed to taking such effortless illumination for granted, but does it matter?
The overuse of electricity is one of the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States alone. Such revelations have led us to transition toward using LED lighting, a more energy efficient option, as a primary indoor light source. This switch has reduced energy requirements by as much as 95% in comparison to the typical incandescent thermal analog sources of lighting.
But we lost something through this trade as well: infrared radiation. Generated by incandescent light bulbs, it’s actually beneficial to your health, and, in that respect, worth the extra cost.
According to Dr. Alexander Wunsch, a prominent expert on photobiology, near-infrared radiation is critical for mitochondrial and eye health, plays an important role in biological energy production, and aids with wound healing and anti-aging.
More worrisome still, as we miss out on these benefits we also incur added dangers. Wunsch notes:
I call these LEDs Trojan horses because they appear so practical to us. They appear to have so many advantages. They save energy; are solid state and very robust,. So we invited them into our homes. But we are not aware that they have many stealth health-robbing properties, which are harmful to your biology, harmful to your mental health, harmful to your retinal health, and also harmful to your hormonal or endocrine health.
There are many hidden dangers of light-emitting diode (LED) lighting that most people have no idea exist. Though LED lights are more efficient than fluorescent lights, they also produce a good amount of light in the blue spectrum. Richard Hansler, a light researcher at John Carroll University in Cleveland, says that ordinary incandescent lights do produce some blue light, but far less than fluorescent lightbulbs.
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At night specifically, light throws the body’s biological clock, known as the circadian rhythm, out of its cycle, disturbing sleep as a result. Research even shows that this disruption may cause cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Though light of any kind can suppress melatonin secretion, it is blue light in particular that is of most concern. In one study, Harvard researchers and their colleagues discovered that, through an experiment in which they compared the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to the exposure of green light of comparable brightness, blue light suppressed melatonin for nearly twice as long as the green light. Furthermore, circadian rhythms were shifted by twice as much.
Choosing to ignore these new insights can have very serious long-term ramifications. It could lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), for example, which is the leading cause of blindness in the United States and elsewhere.
Other health problems rooted in mitochondrial dysfunction may also be exacerbated, and these run the gamut from metabolic disorder to cancer.
And Wunsch notes:
Blue has the highest energy in the visible part of the spectrum and produces, infuses, the production of ROS, of oxidative stress.
The blue light causes ROS in your tissue, and this stress needs to be balanced with near-infrared that is not present in LEDs. We need even more regeneration from blue light, but the regenerative part of the spectrum is not found in the blue, in the short wavelength, part. It’s found in the long wavelength part, in the red and the near-infrared. So tissue regeneration and tissue repair results from the wavelengths that are not present in an LED spectrum.
We have increased stress on the short wavelength part and we have reduced regeneration and repair on the long wavelength part. This is the primary problem … [W]e don’t have this kind of light quality in nature. This has consequences. The stress has consequences in the retina; it has consequences in our endocrine system.La
The biggest concern of LEDs is that they primarily emit blue wavelengths while being significantly low in counterbalancing healing and regenerative near-infrared frequencies. Lacking both red light and infrared radiation, they do not have the wavelength crucial for repair and regeneration. So, what are you supposed to do if blue light has adverse side effects, and yet not opting for them can further harm the planet?
Start by using dim red lights for night lights, which have the least power to alter circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin. Try to avoid looking at bright screens two to three hours prior to falling asleep. If you work at night, or have a lifestyle that involves the use of electronic devices in the evening, perhaps opt for wearing blue-blocking gasses, or even obtaining an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night. And make sure to treat yourself to an abundant amount of bright light during the day, as this will increase your ability to sleep at night, and even boost your mood and alertness during the day.
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