Around 15% of the population in Australia suffers from migraines. Based on today’s population that is a staggering 3.6 million people! A migraine is a form of severe headache which comes with warning signs such as flashing lights, blind spots, nausea and sensitivity to light.
More than a third of people who suffer from migraines have cited light as the trigger for their attacks. Other frequently reported triggers have been stress, hormones and sleep disturbances. The additional triggers can be intensified by a whole host of factors ranging from work and financial stresses, menopause in women or lack of sleep etc. The leading cause of lack of sleep in the developed world is excess exposure to blue light wavelengths at night. Intensified blue light frequencies are commonly found in smart phones, tablets, laptops, televisions and house lights. Exposure to these frequencies of light after dark suppresses melatonin production (the sleep hormone) and causes us to have inadequate sleep. Inadequate sleep has been shown to lead to elevated Cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Therefore lack of sleep causes a hormonal imbalance and stress, which leads us to hypothesise that excessive blue light exposure from artificial sources, could be the main trigger in migraine formation. Blocking excessive blue light could elevate all of the reported triggers for migraines.
Blue light that is emitted from the sun during the day makes us feel alert and is delivered through our eyes at a constant stream. The issue with artificial blue light from LEDs, TVs, computers and smart phones is its often far more intense than that from the sun. Could this mean that excess blue light rather than blue light, per se, is the cause of some migraines?
However, if we look into the blue light emitted from these electronic devises they do not emit their light in a constant stream; they pulse light out at us. This flickering effect from artificial light has been reported to trigger migraines as well as causing eye strain and mild headaches. Have you ever been at your computer all day to find your eyes are dry and sore and have a dull ache in your head? This is the symptoms of excess exposure to blue flickering light frequencies.
Studies have indicated that the problem frequency of light in triggering migraines is 480nm; this is the most common frequency shown to induce migraines in the majority of sufferers and is at the higher end of the blue spectrum. Blocking light at this frequency could be beneficial in reducing attacks. BLUblox amber tinted glasses blocks 98% at 480nm.
Intensification of Symptoms
Once a migraine has been triggered, blue light has also been shown to cause a problem to sufferers. Those who suffer from migraines often report that they feel most comfortable in a dark room. Blue light has been shown to increase migraine pain and activate the trigeminal nerve (the nerve associated with migraines). Blue light causes oxidative stresses; a theory has been put forward that migraines may be the body’s defence mechanism against any oxidative stress. Excessive blue light exposure, especially from flickering pulsed blue light will most definitely cause oxidative stress, so this theory is very plausible.
However, not all light is bad for migraines it seems. Some studies have shown most frequencies can trigger a migraine, but certain frequencies of green have been reported to actually be therapeutic to migraine suffers, post migraine. Therefore wearing blueblocker glasses that block all the way through to green may not be the best choice in alleviating pain caused by blue light after an attack.
Bio-Hacking as Prevention
Looking at the literature it seems that over exposure to blue wavelength light from artificial sources that is delivered through the eye in a flicking manner (particularly at the 480nm wavelength) is a leading trigger in migraine formation. It has also shown that exposure to artificial light post attack causes an intensification of symptoms. We have also seen that some green frequencies can smooth symptoms in some of the sufferers.
What can we do to hack our environment to help reduce attacks and sooth symptoms?
Change your light bulbs from fluorescent/LED to incandescent or red. Red light is therapeutic and incandescent light gives off a softer amount of light.
Limit Screen Time
The problem with blue light is excessive exposure to the flicking artificial sources. Therefore limited screen time will naturally reduce your exposure to this troublesome wave length and reduce your incidences of an attack.
Day Time Blueblockers
During the day, if you are working indoors and exposed to a computer or working under fluorescent or LED lights, you need to reduce your exposure to blue light. Some blue light during the day is required for healthy endocrine function and alertness. However we need to limit the amount we receive from the artificial sources that cause migraines and lessen sleep quality. These types of blue blockers will have a straw yellow colour appearance and should be worn during any active day time screen time or whilst working under artificial light sources.
Wearing blueblockers that block the troublesome 480nm spectrum will also help. Blueblockers will help the pineal gland secrete melatonin naturally which will give you a better sleep and you will be less stressed. Stress is another leading cause of migraines so wearing blueblockers has to be good. Blueblockers will also block the flickering blue light wavelengths from hitting your eyes. Blocking this flickering blue light will make sure you aren’t excessively exposed to blue light, the leading cause of migraines. Amber lenses will work just fine. Red lenses may be overkill given the amount of green they block, but more research is needed.
BLUblox amber glasses block 98% of blue light at the 480nm range and are therefore a great choice for those who suffer from migraines. They should be worn in the evenings or following a migraine attack to alleviate symptoms. As I was a sufferer of migraines amber glasses really helped me overcome these debilitating attacks.
As a thank you for reading this blog we are offering a 10% discount off our amber glasses for anyone who wants to give them a try to help their migraine management or sleep.
Coupon code – Migraine10
Kelman L. The triggers or precipitants of the acute migraine attack. Cephalalgia. 2007 May;27(5):394-402. Epub 2007 Mar 30.
M. Tatsumoto, T. Eda, T. Ishikawa, M. Ayama, K. Hirata. Light of Intrinsically Photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cell (ipRGC) Causing Migraine Headache Exacerbation. IHC symposium OR3. 2013 June.