Excessive light at work place and reducing eye strain


Before I get to the meat of this post, which is about protecting your eyes and reducing eye strain at the work place a slight digression.


While I am a big advocate of ancestral\primal style of eating, I am also a big fan of using modern technologies to deal with modern stressors. It reminds me of a Mark Sisson quip “Primal living is not about living in the dark or hunting your neighbors pets.” In my mind, there is absolutely no conflict between eating a whole food based diet which feels very natural on one hand but supplementing this diet with eating wild salmon from a can, wearing blue blockers in the evening while watching TV or eating highest quality supplements I can find (because even the best modern food is no longer as nutrient dense). The outside world has evolved at a much faster rate than our genes and now there is a massive mismatch between the environments in which our genes were cooked and what is actually out there. We no longer live in jungles and caves and no longer need to protect ourselves from tigers. On the other hand, most of us spend majority of our times cooped indoors, breathing artificial air all day long and exposed to excessive amount of fluorescent light. Since I am a software developer by trade, I get the added bonus of staring at a computer screen all day long and the computer screen staring back at me. You can see how we have traded one set of stressors (jungle and tiger) for another. I will do everything in my power to prevent macular degeneration of my eyes and keep them healthy for as long as I can – whether it’s eating whole foods or getting enough sleep or using right shades of light. So as far as I am concerned there is no contradiction here – eating ancestrally but relying on 21st century inventions.


Back to lighting and eye strain.


My focus here is not to talk about the health and nutrition aspects of eye care but rather alleviating external lighting conditions. And the problem ironically is not lack of it but excess of it. Excess of high-energy, blue light, UV and artificial light. I have no doubt and science proves it that artificial high-energy blue light is damaging our eye muscles. What has made this problem obvious to me in my work environment is that I have just moved into this building.  In the previous building my workstation was next to a large window. So as I would stand and work at my work station, I could see as far as eyes could see, towards the sky and Pacific Ocean just outside. (I am not kidding, the previous building is next to Wellington waterfront). And then next day I found myself cooped up in a horribly designed buildings with so much fluorescent white light that it feels like you are in torture chamber. It’s like building designers wanted to make sure that people don’t doze off at work and made the environment super bright. I think they did a pretty good job. And then there is also the light from 2 computer monitors.


What a view



Now some may call me a delicate flower but here is what The Vision Council has to say about it and I quote– “Nearly 70% of American adults experience some form of digital eye strain due to prolonged  used to electronic devices. Some of the common symptoms are headache, dry eye,   blurred vision and eye strain.”  In my case, the excessive fluorescent lighting was making this bad situation worse. Check, check, check and check for me.

There is a strong connection between amount of light you are exposed to and circadian rhythms.  You see, you want lots of natural bright light in the day as you are active and post sun set, light should gradually fade away. Try wearing blue blockers in the night for a few weeks as you watch TV or read something on your tablet to feel the difference and this will translate to good sleep. Too much light towards the end of the day inhibits melatonin production, that’s the sleep hormone. It’s our bio-chemistry people, I am not making this stuff up. While we have naturally evolved to bright light during the day, this was light from the sun and not this junk fluorescent light we are exposed to from our computers, tube lights and other electronic devices.

So the point is that I knew I was struggling with this brightness and my eyes were feeling the strain which means brain was stressed too. Remember, it’s the brain really which does the processing behind the scenes. There are 2 white fluorescent tube light directly above my head and another pair a few feet apart.  I got rid of one of the tube lights from the pair directly above my head and I was hoping this would help the situation. It seemed to help the first day but I couldn’t tell the difference a few days later.

Tube light  not very from from my monitor and a lot closer to my eyes when I stand and work


Let there be light, yep let’s put lots of them together

I didn’t want to wear my awesome blue blockers at work. I mean who wants to look like a superhero or a rock star at work.  Besides these completely block the blue colour. So I needed right tool for the right job. When you need a laptop, a tablet or smartphone won’t do and while you can talk into your 9” 3G iPad, I prefer a smartphone in that situation.

Since most of us don’t get to work outside under the blue sky or work in intelligently designed building which smartly lets outside light come in, what are our options? You can try convincing your boss to install CoeLux. Yep they have found a way to mimic sunlight using LED. In fact they are so good that it convinces your brain and eye that it is sunlight. However it costs $61, 000 so it could be a while before you get one of these.
LED or sun light, you decide


So began my search for blue-blocker-like-glasses that I could wear at work. I wanted something functional and fashionable. It should block the excessive white-blue light hitting my eyes and should look good.


Enters www.gunnars.com. If I had million dollars and millions of hours at my disposal, the research would culminate with glasses like they sell.

Quoting www.gunnars.com: “GUNNAR offers the only patented computer eyeglasses and optical lens technology solution, recommended by doctors, to protect and enhance your vision. In addition, custom tints and premium coatings block high-energy, artificial blue light, UV and glare to protect your vision. The result – improved clarity, focus and performance designed to meet demanding visual needs of a digital generation…”.  Just look at them.



I finally settled on the Phenom style of Computer glasses.



My experience so far with the glasses:


1.   They have dimmed the brightness around me just enough. It’s like f.lux is running in the background.


2.  They are doing a pretty good job of blocking blue spectrum without blocking the blue colour entirely, so it’s not a compromise.


So essentially it meets the functional requirements.


3.  Wifey tells me they look good too.


4.   I can attest to the good quality and they just fit perfectly.


Phenom in real world


Now these are not cheap and glasses alone cost me $99. If you are not in the U.S, the shipping will cost another $40, so it adds up. But the big question is how much are my eyes worth to me?