Many of us know that we shouldn't check our electronic devices in bed because the light emitted from the screen can disrupt our sleep. New research suggests that too much of this screen light at night could also lead to the acceleration of macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of age-related blindness.
As our eyes are exposed to sunlight in the morning our bodies release enzymes which reduce melatonin levels helping us to wake up. As the sun goes down, the amount of blue light that we are exposed to naturally reduces, more melatonin is released and we start to feel sleepy.
The screens on our digital devices emit high energy blue light as do energy efficient fluorescent bulbs and LED lights. By staring at our screens after sundown, we can cause disruption to our circadian rhythm by reducing the amount of melatonin released around bedtime causing difficulties in naturally getting to sleep at night.
Research published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that in addition to altering our sleep patterns, the blue light from our screens could also be accelerating blindness as we age.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of age-related vision loss affecting about one in seven New Zealanders aged over 50. As an incurable eye disease it results in significant vision loss and is caused by the death of photoreceptor cells in the retina.
The researchers found that when they exposed retinal molecules to blue light in the lab it triggered a reaction which generated a chemical that was poisonous to the photo-receptor cells in the eye.