CHENNAI: Shravan Raj was 16 years old when he was drawn into the world of gaming. What started as a 30-minute indulgence in his phone, turned into an incessant routine. Every night, after dinner, he sits glued to the computer screen, enveloped in a faint bluish glow. The engineering student describes a typical night in his household. “My mother watches television, my dad sends e-mails from his laptop, my sister usually watches movies on her tablet and my younger brother scrolls through his Instagram feed while I game away,” he says.
This is the scene in most of our households, and the looming danger of blue light emission from gadgets are a cause for concern.Dr Sivarajan Thandeshwaram, senior consultant, stroke and neurovascular medicine, Kauvery Hospital, calls the effects of blue light, “a hidden epidemic”. “With the increasing usage of electronic devices and gadgets, especially among preteens and teenagers, the threat of associated ailments is only spiking. Prolonged exposure to blue light can lead to high strain, hypertension, headache, dryness in eyes, sleeplessness, mental fatigue, and depression,” he says.
Some studies, including a study by Harvard Medical School, suggests links between blue light at night to diabetes, heart diseases, some types of cancer, and obesity. “Naturally, our body has evolved to sleep during sundown and wake up during sunrise. With prolonged exposure to blue light, the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms, decreases. This not only affects your sleep-wake cycle but also paves way for other health-related conditions. It’s a vicious cycle,” explains the doctor.
Lakshmi Priya, a 26-year-old IT professional works night shifts. Prolonged hours of sitting in front of the computer and working has taken a toll on her health. “It started with migraines and then it started interfering with my sleep. I also had digital eye strain for which I started wearing anti-glare glasses. When I did some research on my own about blue light and I understood it has both good and bad effects. But unfortunately, when we are exposed to it for longer hours, the bad ones dominate. Now, I take short breaks during work. I step away from my computer for a while. I have started seeing some improvement,” she says.Dr Sivarajan emphasises that workspaces should become mindful of the risks related to blue light. “Desks and chairs should be designed in a way that there is adequate distance between both. Anti-glare screen guards in computers will also help,” he shares.
The effects can also manifest in school performance in children in the form of delayed handwriting skills, lack of concentration and so on. He suggests that parents take control of their kids’ screen time. “In children and teenagers, the risk of retinal damage due to the usage of gadgets is more. In India we have been observing premature vision loss due to this,” he says.