If, like me, you love the idea of an e-book reader such as the Kindle Paperwhite but have concerns about blue light levels, then you’re not alone. As more people wake up to the dangers of electronic devices, this is becoming a bigger issue.
However, the fact that you’re here means you’re looking to do something about it. In this article, I’ll be looking at some of the main concerns associated with a Kindle, such as does the Kindle emit blue light? and Does the Kindle Paperwhite have a blue light filter?
What is blue light?
Before looking into concerns relating specifically to the Kindle Paperwhite, it’s worth understanding what we mean by blue light. So what is blue light?
Blue light is also known as high energy visible light, and as the term implies, it’s part of the spectrum of visible light. By extension, this also means it’s part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Along with other colors of visible light, such as red, green, orange and yellow, it makes up white light, which is the type of light produced by the sun.
It falls on the shorter end of the spectrum of visible light, and short wavelengths mean that they have more energy. This, combined with the eyes’ inability to filter blue light effectively, are 2 things that contribute to digital eye strain.
Digital screens emit blue light as part of the spectrum of visible light they emit. The reason this is a concern for many screen users is because blue light can lead to eye strain, among a number of other health concerns.
While the Kindle Paperwhite has a different type of screen to digital devices such as smartphones or tablets, it still produces blue light. Blue light is particularly common in backlit screens, and is definitely more of an issue on white screens such as the Kindle.
Bear in mind, however, that it’s inevitable for us to be exposed to some amount of blue light. After all, it’s produced by the sun and any device that emits white light. However, much like EMF radiation, concerns are related to over exposure.
Does reading a Kindle Paperwhite affect sleep?
One of the biggest common health concerns relating to digital screen use is how they affect our sleeping patterns. Many people have probably heard about this, but is there actually any truth in it?
Blue light emitted by devices like the Kindle Paperwhite has the ability to impact your circadian rhythm, which is what dictates your sleep cycle. Exposure to blue light causes your body to produce “waking” hormones that make you more alert.
Our body’s reaction to blue light is actually a really interesting evolutionary development; the only issue is how we now react to it because of our overuse of electronic devices.
An increase in blue light triggers our body’s waking cycle, as in the days before technology, higher levels of blue light meant it was morning, meaning we should naturally wake up.
This is part of our circadian rhythm, which is the scientific term for our sleep-wake cycle. Our bodies produce a number of different hormones to regulate the cycle, including melatonin, which is what makes you sleepy.
Although exposure to unnatural levels of blue light at any time of day will impact you, the results are more obvious at night. Your body takes darkness to be a sign of sleep approaching, and so viewing blue light basically tricks it into thinking otherwise.
This is, of course, an issue when it comes to something like the Kindle Paperwhite, as many people like to read before bed. However, using a digital screen will impact your ability to fall asleep, and using one too close to bed will result in you feeling less drowsy and it’ll take longer for you to fall asleep.
Some of the other health impacts include:
- Macular degeneration
Bear in mind, however, that not all blue light is bad. Sunlight is obviously good for us in the right doses, and issues relating to blue light only happen when we spend too much time in front of a screen. Luckily there are options you can try to reduce the level of blue light from your screens.
Does the Kindle Paperwhite have a blue light filter?
The Kindle Paperwhite has a different kind of screen than devices such as smartphones. Rather than being LED (or some variation), their screens contain white and black ink particles.
These particles are charged positive and negative, meaning that when a current passes through them, they display different images on the screen. However, the Paperwhite also has backlighting, unlike many other electronic readers.
So does the Kindle Paperwhite have a blue light filter?
The Kindle Paperwhite emits significantly lower levels of blue light than normal digital screens, and so doesn’t have a built-in blue light filter. Its backlight assembly is 4-5 LEDs, which emit much lower levels of blue light than normal screens.
In short, the designers didn’t feel it was a necessary edition because the screens are designed differently. In fact, the backlight assembly on a Paperwhite isn’t behind the screen; the LEDs are in a rack at the bottom, shining upwards.
This does actually mean you have less blue light entering your eyes because it’s not shining at you, it’s pointing up across the screen. This means that it’s still possible to use the device in the dark without too much eye strain.
Similarly, the device doesn’t have any kind of night mode, and you have no option to turn off the backlighting completely. However, if you’re concerned about blue light from the screen, there are things you can try.
How do I turn off the blue light on my Kindle Paperwhite?
Even though the Kindle Paperwhite doesn’t have a specific blue light filter like some other devices, there are ways to reduce the amount of blue light that the screen uses:
To turn off the blue light on your Kindle Paperwhite, either turn the brightness down or turn on Blue Shade. This is a setting that reduces the amount of blue light used by the screen, which makes the light warmer and so has less impact on your sleep cycle.
In order to enable or disable Blue Shade, simply swipe down from the top of the screen. You’ll see a list of options, one of which should be displayed.
Click on display and you’ll see an option for Blue Shade. Turn it on or off depending on your preference, and this will affect the levels of blue light. You can also find an option in the settings menu.
Blue Shade essentially has the same function as a blue light filter on other digital devices. As mentioned, the Kindle Paperwhite emits less blue light than standard devices anyway, so you might not notice much of a difference when you enable this function.
The other option is to turn down the screen’s backlight. You can turn it off completely, which would be the best option. If you’re reading before bed, simply continue to use a lamp as you would when reading a normal book.
To make this the better option, use a red bulb in your bedside lamp. Red light has the least impact on your sleep cycle, so it makes sense to use red light just before bed if you want to be able to fall asleep easily.
Other ways to reduce your blue light exposure
If you don’t find that turning on Blue Shade on your Kindle is doing enough, or you want to find other ways to reduce your blue light exposure, there are other options to try.
I’ve spent some time looking into the best ways to do this, and you probably won’t be surprised to learn that there are some products available specifically for this issue.
Here are my top suggestions for combating the amount of blue light you’re exposed to, particularly in the evenings.
1. Try to stay away from devices before bed
Ideally, you should stop using electronic devices at least 3 hours before bed, as this will give your brain long enough to fall into its sleep cycle. However, if that’s not possible then stop completely around an hour before bed.
The other option, of course, is to turn the brightness down. The less the screen is lit, the less blue light it’s emitting. This is a good option if you can’t reduce your use of devices in the evening, and is particularly relevant for something like a Kindle.
2. Install a blue light filter
Many devices, including some Kindle models, allow you to install a blue light filtering app, which effectively sits over the screen to block out blue light. This basically does the job of a blue light filter.
Installing one of these apps is the best option if your device doesn’t have its own filter, or it’s not doing enough for you. Bear in mind, however, that not all devices have the ability to download apps, or don’t support any blue light filter apps yet.
3. Fit a screen protector
Another good option is to fit a screen protector with a built-in blue light filter (Amazon). As you can probably guess, these do the same job as blue light filter apps but are put on top of the screen.
The effectiveness of these screen protectors is hit or miss though. Some products make hardly any difference, whereas others do an amazing job. I’d recommend doing a bit of research to see if one exists for your specific device.
If you can find a good model, I’d definitely recommend fitting one on your device. Even something like a Kindle Paperwhite, which doesn’t produce too much blue light, will benefit from a screen protector like this.
The other added benefit is it means you can keep your screen a little brighter. The screen protector will make it a bit dimmer anyway, but considering blue light is the main reason you’d turn it down, fitting one of these allows you to keep it brighter.
4. Use some blue light blocking glasses
Another great option for cutting down on your blue light exposure is to buy some blue light blocking glasses (my recommended ones). The most obvious benefit of this product is that it works will all your devices, meaning you can move between them as necessary.
Many blue light blocking glasses just look like normal reading glasses. They have a filter built into the lenses that block blue light between 400 and 440 nm, which are the wavelengths that affect sleeping patterns.
However, it’s worth mentioning that not everyone sees the desired results with these glasses. There doesn’t appear to be a specific reason why, but everyone’s eyes work differently.
If you do have problems with the clear lenses, try either brown or yellow lenses. Some people have had better results with these, so try a few different pairs if you’re able to.
Check out the pros and cons of anti-radiation glasses.
5. Use an external light source for your Kindle
Although I mentioned it above, it’s worth repeating: use an external light source for your Kindle Paperwhite. While this might make the added backlight redundant, it’s a good way to cut down on your blue light levels.
Normal Kindles and e-readers don’t have a backlight; it’s meant to be a selling point of the Paperwhite. However, the lack of backlight means they’re better for using before bed.
If you own a Kindle Paperwhite though, simply use a bedside lamp rather than the built-in backlight. It’s best to use a red bulb, but if you can’t get one, then warm white light bulbs will be the next best thing. Also, stay away from LED bulbs, as they’re the worst culprits.
Some final thoughts
Reducing blue light levels on your Kindle Paperwhite isn’t difficult, and is definitely worth it if you have concerns.
Doing so will have less impact on your circadian rhythm, meaning you can continue to use the device before bed and still get a good night’s sleep. Just make sure to do the same on your other devices too!