Fluorescent lights may be efficient and cheap, but they come with a major health disadvantage. In some instances, they can cause headaches. This is particularly bad news for those who suffer from migraines from time to time, as fluorescent lights are known to worsen these. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why fluorescent lights cause headaches.
Light Wavelengths Cause Different Degrees of Symptoms
Blue light, specifically, worsens headache symptoms in those who have a high sensitivity to light. Fluorescent lights, especially the older ones, are made with high amounts of blue light. Another reason why fluorescent lights cause headaches is because they flicker. The human eye might not be able to see the lights flickering because they flicker at such a fast rate that it can cause an overload of stimulation.
Basically, it’s more than what human eyes are designed to handle. Flickering of fluorescents can’t be easily solved by just replacing the light bulb, because it’s a matter of voltage, not the bulb itself. The flickering in fluorescent bulbs is the same as that which can be observed on computer screens. Both fluorescent lights and computer screens have the same flicker rate of 60 times per second. We might not be able to notice or pick up this flickering consciously, but our brains can fully perceive it, more so if they are sensitive to blue light and prone to migraines.
Scientists carried out a study where they tried to uncover some of the finer details about the relationship between fluorescent lights and headaches. They compared the brains of 42 people with Irlen syndrome to 200 age-matched individuals without any signs of Irlen Syndrome. They found that, for people with Irlen Syndrome, high contrast as well as lighting and glare created high levels of stress for their brains. Their brains were unable to process the visual signals being sent to them. This is the same for fluorescents, particularly for people who are predisposed to headaches.
Apart from headaches, blue light from fluorescents can also result in difficulty reading, affect sleep patterns, enhance allergies, and have a negative impact on the auto-immune system.
Thankfully, newer versions of fluorescents have less blue light, reducing the likelihood of causing a debilitating headache.