Carotenoid supplements could mitigate the deleterious effects of electronics screens on sleep, visual performance, and macular pigment density. Eyes that are glued to screens most of the day are exposed to excessive blue light. In a recent study1, subjects who took a combination of macular carotenoids — lutein, zeaxanthin, and mesozeaxanthin — reported better sleep patterns, reduced eyestrain and fewer headaches. They also had better visual performance and higher macular pigment optical density.
Blue Light Damage
Excessive amounts of blue light are known to disrupt sleep. Blue light is part of the sun’s spectrum, so it occurs naturally during the day. Blue light tells the brain to be wakeful. However, round-the-clock blue light disturbs the body’s sleep cycle. Using electronics and blue light-emitting LED light bulbs in the evening are especially damaging to the sleep cycle.
Blue light also harms the retina. Research on animals has found that blue light causes physical damage to the eye. The retinal pigment epithelium is especially vulnerable.
Carotenoids Study Results
The subjects in the study were young, healthy adults who spent at least 6 hours per day using a screen close-up. Half took a placebo. The other half took lutein, zeaxanthin, and mesozeaxanthin supplements for six months.
The researchers measured visual performance including photostress recovery, contrast sensitivity, disability glare, and critical flicker fusion. Macular pigment absorbs blue light. Therefore, the researchers assessed blue macular pigment optical density. They also gave subjects a questionnaire on sleep quality and physical symptoms of excessive screen time. Symptoms may include headache, eye fatigue, and eye strain.
The subjects who took the carotenoids had statistically significant higher scores on all counts (p < .05). Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants. Inside the eye, oxidization causes significant damage that can lead to serious eye diseases and vision loss.
Carotinoids reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. The researchers believe that these effects most likely caused the improvements in sleep quality.
Note: This study provided 24 mg of lutein, zeaxanthin, and mesozeaxanthin daily. These nutrients are also available in foods. For example, leafy green vegetables, egg yolks, corn, and bell peppers contain some of these nutrients. However, getting sufficient amounts in the diet is difficult and requires a very healthy diet. The body makes mesozeaxanthin from lutein, but the body may not be efficient at converting it. Supplements containing mesozeaxanthin are usually made from marigolds and seafood (krill) — foods that are not common in our daily diets.
Up Next: Learn more about carotenoids.
- J.M. Stringham, N.T. Stringham, et al. “Macular Carotenoid Supplementation Improves Visual Performance, Sleep Quality, and Adverse Physical Symptoms in Those with High Screen Time Exposure,” Foods, June, 2017 ↩