Are LED Lights Causing Your Migraines?

Reviewed and updated for 2024 by Molly Duong, M.D.

Homeowners and businesses alike are increasingly choosing LED lighting over incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. With superior energy efficiency and longevity, they’ve been touted as the superior choice. But researchers are discovering that the benefits of LED lighting might not outweigh the risks-particularly the risks to our health. LED light exposure is now implicated in triggering various health  symptoms, including migraines.

What is LED Lighting and Why is It So Prevalent?

LED stands for “light emitting diodes,” an electrical advance that is popular for its superior energy efficiency compared to incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. LED bulbs currently maintain half of the market space in the lighting industry because they only use  20% of the energy their incandescent counterparts need to perform the same function. They are also cheap to manufacture and purchase, offering both  energy and cost savings- at least at face value.

While our eyes perceive LED light as white, it’s actually a mixture of blue, green, red, or amber light that’s converted to white. The “whiteness” of the bulb is determined by the amount of blue wavelengths it contains. This same  “blue light” you’ve probably heard referenced in relation to digital device  usage can have a detrimental impact on our health. Increasing evidence suggests that LED’s advantages are outweighed by costly issues.

LED Lights Aim to Protect Nature, But the Effect is Unnatural

While LED lights are proposed as better for the environment, they use an unnatural technique that can be disturbing to the eye. In fact, a recent French study found LED lighting to be detrimental to the health of humans, as well as plants and animals.

The prevalence of blue light waves in both LED and fluorescent bulbs exposes us to unnatural levels of light. Blue rays have shorter wavelengths and more energy than light waves of other colors. While a healthy dose of blue light has some benefits, long-term proximity to intense blue light from LED bulbs and screens have been shown to be linked to harmful effects.

But it’s not just blue light that’s to blame. Red and white LED lighting also trigger migraines. And as noted above, the color in LED bulbs is converted, so the color your eye perceives will not alert you to the presence of these color waves.

In addition, LEDs use a flickering technology that can trigger eye strain and headaches. LED bulbs switch on and off hundreds of times per second to produce an invisible strobe-like effect. This can cause our eye movements to function improperly, triggering a host of symptoms. Fluorescent bulbs also use the flickering system, but it’s more harmful in LED lights when used with a dimmer feature. Since LEDs can only be switched completely on or off, they flicker more prominently in order to simulate dimmer light.

Overall, both the spectral composition and temporal light modulation of LED bulbs appear to have effects on our health. Take a look at some symptoms you might not suspect stem from your LED bulbs.

Common Symptoms Caused by LED Lighting

Blue light has a dark side.” – Harvard Health Publishing

One of the reasons LED lights impact health, migraines in particular, is the greater prevalence of blue light. Harvard Health researchers say that blue light has a dark side, noting “…environmental concerns, and the quest for energy-efficient lighting, could be at odds with personal health.”

While the blue rays from LED lights improve alertness during the day, they pose problems- particularly at the end of the day – in the form of eye strain, migraines, and sleep disturbance. Here are various symptoms your LED lights can cause.

Symptoms Caused by LED Light:

  • Headaches & Migraines
  • Insomnia
  • Double Vision
  • Dizziness
  • Eye Strain
  • Visual Disturbance
  • Retinal Damage
  • Melatonin Suppression
  • Circadian Rhythm Disruption
  • Photo Toxicity or Light Sensitivity

LED Lighting Is the Migraine Trigger That’s Hard to Escape

“LED lights trigger migraines for some people, because they don’t emit a steady stream of light.” -Migraineagain.com

If you’re experiencing migraine headaches, you might be frustrated by trying to identify the cause. While you might have considered everything from your glasses prescription, to your caffeine intake, or to seasonal allergies, chances are the problem is either right in front of you, or directly overhead.

woman-at-desk-using-mobile-phone-and-laptop

LED lighting doesn’t just stream from the bulbs in your fixtures. It’s now routinely used in computer monitors, television screens, phones, and tablets. Essentially, it’s all around you. So, if you have tried a host of medications and keep coming back to your doctor for the same symptoms, , consider that the problem might stem from your lighting, not your biological or chemical makeup.

LED Light Is All Around Us:

  • TV Screens
  • Computers
  • Tablets
  • Smartphones
  • Holiday Lights
  • Car Lights
  • Overhead and Tabletop Lighting
  • Store Lighting

Some Populations Are at Particular Risk

While everyone can be  susceptible  to the harmful effects of LED lighting, some people are at an increased risk for  LED light-related symptoms. If you,your coworkers, or loved ones fall into these categories, it’s even more essential to take protective action. Factors that can make you more vulnerable to LED light include:

  • History of head injury
  • History of  Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Working night shifts
  • Pregnancy 
  • Adolescence 
  • History of Migraines

How to Combat LED Lighting’s Impact on Migraines

While LED lighting can be a migraine trigger, the alternatives unfortunately aren’t always better. Fluorescent bulbs have many of the same harmful effects as LED bulbs, on top of  additional environmental consequences.

Since LED and fluorescent lighting currently surround us, the best solution is to take protective measures. We can’t stop oncoming traffic from aiming fluorescent bulbs at our line of vision, and we can’t forgo the use of computers, phones, or electronic devices. But we can shield ourselves from the impact they have on our lives.

Blue-light glasses are one such solution, but they aren’t always practical or effective. . Alternatively, for those who already wear glasses, there are blue-light coating options you can opt to include in your lens package to produce the same effect. While they might help you while working in front of a screen, they may not be  the best solution for all-day wear. LED light streams in around the frames and can still shine down from overhead.

Current research has not found definitive proof that blue-light blocking glasses help the visual system so far, , and notes  that many companies may be making false claims. The best solution, to our available knowledge, is to block LED light at the source by installing natural light filters on your LED and fluorescent light fixtures.

How Natural Light Filters Prevent LED-Induced Migraines

Natural light filters, like the NaturaLux products installed by Make Great Light, protect you from LED light damage at all angles. Since they fit snugly against your existing lights, no harmful rays slip through. Whether you’re in  a meeting, reading a bedtime story to your child, or working at your computer, you can save energy while also protecting your health with natural light filters.

Our light filters are the quickest, most effective way to prevent LED-induced migraines, as well as the other harmful effects of LED lights. If your bulbs are fluorescent instead, the benefits are even more profound. Here are just a few ways our filters improve your environment.

Benefits of Natural Light Filters

  • Reduce Headaches
  • Improved Focus
  • Enhanced Clarity
  • Eliminate Glare
  • Absorb UV Radiation
  • Provide Full Spectrum Light
  • Produce Natural Lighting

5 Tips to Improve LED Light Sensitivity

Since we can’t escape artificial  lighting completely, it’s important to reduce its impact however we can. The majority of us are  exposed to LED lighting either through our  jobs, homes,  commute, or even grocery store runs. So, take steps to improve light sensitivity wherever you can. Here are some tips to get started..

  1. Choose the best lighting whenever possible as your principal light source- this eliminates the need to add on filters  
  2. If choosing primary lighting fixtures is not a possibility (i.e workplaces), use natural light filters wherever permitted 
  3. Take advantage of smartphone features and filtering settings  on your devices.
  4. Take breaks from screens every 20 minutes.
  5. Avoid excessive use of LED-lit devices at night, particularly 2 hours before bed.

How to Protect Employees from LED Health Risks

LED lighting remains a prevalent choice for now, due to the lower cost and energy consumption. But it’s important to note that many manufacturers keep costs low by using cheap components and harmful engineering tactics. In addition, production environments are susceptible to lacking quality control and structural consistency. The cost: benefit analysis is still underway, as the environmental benefits are offset by the risks to the people, animals, and plants inhabiting the environment.

It’s important to protect your coworkers from potential health issues by creating a barrier against LED and fluorescent lights. Most people can’t work outside in natural light all day, or rewire their entire office. Instead, they can install natural light filters within minutes.

Our Affordable Filters Guard Against Migraines and So Much More!

Both LED and fluorescent lighting are proven to be triggers for  migraine headaches. They’re also implicated in multiple health issues, with ongoing research uncovering more. . Stay ahead of the health curve by protecting your home and workplace with safe light filters.

Make Great Light installs filters in just 5 minutes, making safety fast and affordable. The long-term costs of LED light exposure can include work absenteeism, reduced productivity, and multiple health concerns. Contact Make Great Light today for a simple solution to your health and so much more!

About Dr. Molly Duong

Dr. Molly Duong is a therapeutic and glaucoma certified optometrist. She obtained her doctorate degree at the University of California Berkeley, School of Optometry, and graduated with Honors in Research. Upon graduation, she completed a residency at the Major Charles Robert Soltes Jr. Blind Rehabilitation Center located at VA Long Beach, gaining expertise in primary care, low vision, and traumatic brain injury cases.

She is passionate about expanding innovations in technology and medical devices to improve vision care, and is always looking to build her professional acumen. On top of patient care, she also works in medical writing for ophthalmic trade articles and blogs, as well as consulting for a new vision-based web application in development.

Resources and Citations:

1)”Light emitting diodes”: https://www.electronicshub.org/light-emitting-diode-basics/

2) “French study”: https://www.anses.fr/en/system/files/AP2014SA0253EN.pdf

3) “Blue light”: https://preventblindness.org/blue-light-and-your-eyes/

4) “Harvard Health”: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

5) “Negates blue light blocking glasses”: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29044670/

6) “Natural light filters”: https://www.makegreatlight.com/fluorescent-light-comparison

7) “Naturalux”: https://www.makegreatlight.com/products/fluorescent-light-covers

8) “Make Great Light”: https://www.makegreatlight.com

9) “Light sensitivity”: https://www.migraineagain.com/coping-with-eyes-sensitive-to-light/

10) “Lack quality”: https://www.eneltec-led.com/news/experts-say-the-led-will-cause-symptoms-such-as-headache-in-sweden.html

11) “Contact”: https://www.makegreatlight.com/about-us/contact-us

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