The written article is based on a summary of existing literature on the topic of infrared saunas. The article is for educational purposes and the information provided below cannot be taken as a promise to help with acute health problems or diseases. 31 references back the claims in the article. All references are numbered. You can access the text of the reference by clicking on the number.
Blue light LED therapy has become more popular lately. People use blue light for skin health or wakefulness, for example. But, there’s also a lot of fear around blue light - rightfully so - because it can impede health.
This blog post is part of a series on chromotherapy, that explores all visible colours of light:
In this blog post, however, I’ll explore “What is blue light”. I’ll tell you how you can maximise the health benefits of blue light while minimising the downsides. First, though, let’s explore what blue light fundamentally is:
What Is Blue Light? Blue Light Within The Visible Light Spectrum
So what is blue light? You can find blue light within the “visible light spectrum”. Visible light is what you can see with your naked eyes (1; 2; 3; 4). With scientific tools, you’re also able to “see” other forms of light, infrared and ultraviolet light.
Visible light consists of all the colours of the rainbow. These colours are violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, and anything intermediary. Blue light is part of the visible light spectrum. And, the infrared I talked about before makes you feel hot when you’re staying directly in the sun – ultraviolet light helps create vitamin D in your skin and can give you a sunburn.
As you’re reading this article on an infrared sauna company, I can tell you that infrared light is also used in our saunas to heat your body from the inside out. Nowadays there are many sources of blue light in your environment, such as screens, LED bulbs, and any other form of artificial light, such as billboards. Sunlight also emits blue light, which is a tiny percentage of the total light output of the sun. That sunlight consists of a combination of ultraviolet, visible, and mainly infrared light.
So far, the crash course on light - let’s explore what blue light does with the human body. As it turns out, blue light exposure affects your biology in a similar way that infrared and ultraviolet do:
Blue Light Exposure: Helpful Or Harmful?
Lots of science has been published on blue light exposure and health (5; 6; 7; 8: 9). On the one hand, blue light exposure is very harmful if you’re excessively exposed. And, many people nowadays are because they’re working with computer screens and under artificial LED and fluorescent lights all day.
Screens and most forms of artificial lighting have been created to emit lots of blue light. The reason for that engineering choice is that the human visual spectrum is really sensitive to that colour. So, our environment looks better when a lot of blue light is emitted.
Excessive blue light exposure also has downsides, however. For instance, during the day, if you’re continually under blue light, you can start to feel anxious and stressed. The reason for that overstimulation is that blue light stimulates wakefulness.
For thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, humans lived in nature, with sunlight being the prime source of exposure to light. In sunlight, the blue light is always counterbalanced by the more relaxing red, infrared, and ultraviolet light. So, blue light exposure from the sun is not a problem (unlike excessive ultraviolet exposure, which gives you sunburns).
After humans moved indoors, with the Industrial Revolution, we soon invented indoor lighting as well. And, with technological progress, over time humans invented light bulbs that didn’t emit any infrared or ultraviolet light anymore but only the visible spectrum.
The assumption is that the non-visible light doesn’t matter because we can’t see it. That’s hardly the case, though, as all types of light have biological effects. For instance, the far infrared we use in our saunas helps your body detox, improves blood circulation, and counters pain.
The same is true for blue light. I’m not preaching doom and gloom here, blue light LED therapy can be a very helpful addition to your health regimen when it’s used correctly.
So, let’s distinguish how you can best use blue light LED therapy. We’ve even chosen to equip our saunas with chromotherapy, which can emit blue light. We’ve posted extensively on what chromotherapy is, but in this blog, I’ll mainly venture into the topic of blue light’s health effects.
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Hence, let’s consider some of blue light’s health effects. I’ll list a few of them:
Can counter skin conditions such as acne, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis (10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16; 17). How blue light exactly affects skin health isn’t known yet. What is known is that certain bacteria in the skin that cause skin conditions, such as in acne, are impeded by blue light. Also, blue light may decrease inflammation in the skin.
Improves wakefulness (18; 19; 20; 21; 22). To explain why I’ll have to take a step back. Here’s how: the human eye is not just a “camera” to see the world but also works as a clock to track what time of day it is. When blue light entered your ancestors’ eyes, it signalled to your brain that it was daytime. Even blue light from artificial light sources still has that effect. So, you can feel more awake by using blue light in chromotherapy.
May enhance your mood (23; 24; 25; 26; 27). While some more research is needed here, blue light has positive outcomes in many studies on, for instance, “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (SAD). SAD occurs in many countries that have very dark winters. Even for non-SAD depressions, blue light may have a positive effect.
However,blue light side effects exist as well. Simply put, you shouldn’t be exposed to lots of blue light throughout the day if all other colours are absent.
Let me explain why:
Exposing your body to blue light is like drinking coffee. One or two cups of coffee feel great - you’re more awake, energised, think clearer, and motivated. But what about five or ten cups? In that case you’ll get anxious and stressed - at least most people do. So, sometimes you’ll have to limit blue light exposure.
Let’s explore how:
How To Optimise Exposure To Blue Light
As stated before, blue light exposure can be highly energising. So, if you’re using chromotherapy in our saunas, adding some exposure to blue light can be great. But, it all depends on your exposure to blue light in your daily life.
If you’re working in an office that uses LEDs or fluorescent lighting 24/7, adding more blue light can be a detriment and not a benefit. In other cases, blue light can be energising and help your mood and wakefulness.
Also, I recommend against using blue light chromotherapy late in the evening or at night. The reason here is that the blue light tells your body (the clock in your brain I talked about) that it’s daytime. At nighttime, blue light inhibits melatonin production in your brain (28; 29: 30: 31).
So, in the evening or later at night, you’re better off moving towards red predominance in chromotherapy. During the morning or afternoon, blue light exposure is better. You can even use the blue light strategically to feel more awake, as if drinking coffee. The high-energy blue light included in our chromotherapy especially boosts wakefulness, as opposed to longer blue light wavelengths.
Lastly, let’s consider a few more blue light tips:
More Blue Light Tips
Your ancestors didn’t need to manage their blue light exposure for hundreds of thousands of years. These ancestors were exposed to blue light from the sun during the day, and most of that blue light was removed at night, except for some very tiny amounts of exposure through moonlight.
Our modern world is different though - if you’re chronically overexposed, you can block blue light. To filter blue light, you can wear blue-blocking glasses or install apps like F.lux on your computer.
Or, instead, you can avoid using digital devices a few hours before bed and improve your sleep that way. There’s no right and wrong strategy here - managing blue light exposure differs from person to person.
Hopefully, you do walk away with the understanding that blue light during the day can be highly beneficial, and blue light at night is often counterproductive. For that very very reason, sleep masks and blackout curtains work so well - they give you an absence of blue light, so that your body thinks it’s night and maintains higher melatonin levels.