What Is Blue Light and Why Is It Harmful?

You're concerned about the effects of blue light exposure from your digital devices. You've heard about blue light glasses that supposedly block or filter blue light, but do they really work? In this evidence-based review, you'll learn the real deal on blue light glasses. With 10 tips for reducing blue light based on scientific research, you'll find natural, software, and hardware solutions to implement a healthier technology plan. By evaluating claims and studies, you'll understand if blue light glasses live up to the hype or if simpler adjustments give you the protection you need. Arm yourself with knowledge to make informed choices about managing blue light for better sleep, eye health, and wellbeing.

blue light glasses

Potential Health Effects of Too Much Blue Light Exposure

Blue light is high-energy visible light in the 400 to 490 nanometer range of the visible light spectrum. While exposure to blue light during the day is beneficial and helps regulate our circadian rhythm, too much exposure at night can be harmful.

Exposure to Artificial Blue Light

The increased use of LED lights, smartphones, tablets, and other electronics has led to greater exposure to blue light, especially after sundown. These artificial light sources emit a high concentration of blue light that can disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep at night.

How Blue Light Impacts Your Health

As the sun sets, the blue light in the environment decreases, signaling your brain to produce melatonin to induce sleepiness. Exposure to blue light after dark, however, tricks your brain into staying awake and alert. Prolonged exposure to blue light at night has been linked to increased risks for insomnia, obesity, diabetes, and depression.

Blue light exposure also causes digital eye strain which can lead to dry eyes, headaches, and long-term damage to your vision. The high energy of blue light causes more glare on electronic screens and can tire your eyes faster.

The good news is there are several ways to reduce your blue light exposure for better health and sleep. Turning off electronics 1-2 hours before bed, using eReaders instead of tablets for reading, enabling night mode on your devices, limiting screen time, and wearing blue light blocking glasses are all effective ways to give your eyes and body a break from artificial blue light. Making a few simple changes can have significant impacts on your wellbeing and daytime productivity.

Software and Device Settings to Limit Blue Light

As technology has become deeply integrated into our daily lives, overexposure to blue light has emerged as a health concern. Blue light, which is emitted from sources like smartphone, tablet, and computer screens, as well as fluorescent and LED lighting, can disrupt your circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycle.

Insomnia and Sleep Problems

Too much blue light exposure, especially in the evening, can make it difficult to fall asleep. The light tricks your brain into thinking it's daytime, disrupting your circadian rhythm and suppressing melatonin production. Over time, chronic blue light exposure may lead to more persistent sleep problems like insomnia.

Eye Strain and Fatigue

Staring at bright screens for extended periods can cause eye strain, fatigue, and dry eyes. While taking regular breaks can help, blue light blocking glasses may provide additional relief by reducing glare and filtering out the most harmful wavelengths of blue light.

Increased Risk of Obesity and Diabetes

Some research suggests that excessive blue light exposure at night may increase the risk of weight gain and metabolic disorders like diabetes. The light disrupts your circadian clock and hormones like leptin that regulate hunger and satiety. This can influence eating behaviors and ultimately lead to weight gain.

Accelerated Aging of the Eyes

Blue light may accelerate aging of the eyes, contributing to conditions like age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Blue light damages light-sensitive cells in the retina over time, which can lead to vision impairment and blindness. Limiting screen time, using blue light filters, and not smoking can help slow the progression of AMD and preserve eye health.

While more research is still needed, reducing blue light exposure, especially in the evening, is an easy step you can take to support both eye health and overall wellness. Using blue light blocking glasses, apps and settings on your devices, and making healthy lifestyle changes can help achieve the right balance.

Other Ways to Reduce Blue Light Exposure

Many electronics like smartphones, tablets, and computers emit high amounts of blue light that can disrupt your circadian rhythm and sleep. Luckily, most devices offer built-in options to reduce blue light exposure.

Night Light and Dark Mode

Most smartphones, tablets, and computers have a "night light" or "dark mode" feature that filters out blue wavelengths. Activating this at night helps limit blue light while still allowing you to use your devices. Dark mode converts bright backgrounds to darker colors, so less blue light reaches your eyes.

Blue Light Filter Apps

If your device lacks built-in blue light reduction, you can download an app. Popular options for Android and iOS include Twilight, Night Screen, and Bluelight Filter. These apps place an amber filter over your screen that blocks blue light. Many let you customize the intensity and schedule the filter to activate automatically at night.

Reduce Screen Brightness

Simply dimming your screen brightness, especially at night, cuts down on blue light exposure. Most devices allow you to manually adjust screen brightness or set an automatic schedule for dimming. Lowering brightness by at least 50% provides good blue light reduction without making the screen too dark.

Limit Usage and Take Breaks

In addition to software solutions, limiting screen time and taking regular breaks can help decrease blue light exposure from electronics. Avoid looking at bright screens 1-2 hours before bed. Take short breaks every 20 minutes while using electronics to give your eyes a rest. Look away from the screen and focus on distant objects in the room.

Using a combination of these built-in options and good digital wellness habits can significantly lower your blue light exposure from electronics for better sleep and eye health without needing to rely entirely on blue light glasses. However, for some people blue light glasses may still be helpful as an additional preventative measure.

An Introduction to Blue Light Glasses

While blue light blocking glasses can be an effective method for reducing eye strain and improving sleep, they should be used as part of a comprehensive plan to limit blue light exposure.

Blue Light Filtering Software

There are applications available that can alter the tones of your electronic displays to block blue wavelengths of light. Software like f.lux and Night Shift can automatically adjust your screen to emit warmer colors in the evening. These programs can be installed on computers, tablets and smartphones to reduce blue light from all of your digital devices.

Device Settings

Many smartphones, tablets, and computers now come with built-in options to change the display to a warmer, more yellow tone in the evening. On Apple devices, Night Shift mode can be activated to automatically shift to a warmer display after sunset. Windows 10, Android, and other platforms offer similar blue light reduction settings. Activating these options, especially in the 1-2 hours before bed, can help minimize stimulation from blue light.

Healthy Habits

Developing good habits around technology and light exposure is one of the best ways to reduce your blue light intake. Avoid looking at bright screens 1 hour before bed, keep electronics out of the bedroom, and engage in relaxing pre-sleep routines like reading a book or taking a warm bath. Establishing proper sleep hygiene by limiting light, stress, and stimulation before bed can help you sleep better at night. Using blue light glasses in combination with these healthy habits will provide the most comprehensive protection against the negative impacts of blue light.

While research on the effects of blue light is still ongoing, limiting exposure, especially in the evening, appears to have benefits for both eye health and sleep quality. An integrated approach that combines blue light blocking glasses with software, device settings, and good habits may be the most effective strategy for reducing your risks from blue light exposure. The key is developing a sustainable technology usage plan that prioritizes health and wellness.

Do Blue Light Glasses Really Work? The Science Explained

What Are Blue Light Glasses?

Blue light glasses are specialized glasses designed to block or filter out blue light. They contain lenses, often with an amber or yellow tint, that absorb the highest energy wavelengths of visible light, which are in the blue portion of the light spectrum (400-490 nm). By filtering out blue light, these glasses aim to reduce digital eye strain and potentially improve sleep.

How Do Blue Light Glasses Work?

The lenses in blue light glasses contain special pigments and dyes that absorb blue light. The most common types are polycarbonate lenses with a blue-light blocking coating, or lenses made of a plastic called CR-39 with a blue-light filtering dye infused into the lens material. Both options aim to reduce blue light exposure from electronic devices and artificial lighting.

Potential Benefits of Blue Light Glasses

For people who spend long hours looking at screens, blue light glasses may help reduce digital eye strain from excessive blue light exposure. Some research also suggests blue light glasses could improve sleep quality and quantity by blocking blue light before bedtime. Blue light suppresses melatonin production and disrupts the circadian rhythm, so limiting blue light exposure at night may help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.

Considerations When Choosing Blue Light Glasses

When selecting blue light glasses, consider the percentage of blue light blocked. Glasses that block at least 90% of blue light in the critical 400 to 455 nm range are best for reducing digital eye strain and improving sleep. Also consider lens material, UV protection, style, and if you need prescription lenses. For maximum benefit, combine blue light glasses with other good habits like limiting screen time before bed and practicing good sleep hygiene.

While more research is still needed, blue light glasses show promise as an option for reducing blue light exposure from technology and improving wellbeing in today's digital world. When used as part of a comprehensive plan for health and wellness, blue light glasses may be an easy, non-invasive method for supporting eye health and better sleep.

Tips for Choosing the Best Blue Light Glasses

They Block Blue Light

Blue light glasses are designed to filter out high-energy blue light waves from artificial sources like electronic screens. The lenses contain special pigments that absorb blue light in the 415 to 455 nanometer range, which includes the frequencies most disruptive to our circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles. Studies show that prolonged exposure to blue light at night can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm and melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep.

They May Improve Sleep

By blocking blue light, the glasses could help improve sleep quality and quantity. Research indicates that blue light exposure before bed delays the release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep. A small study found that wearing blue light glasses for two hours before bed increased melatonin levels and led to significantly better sleep. The participants fell asleep faster, slept better, and felt more rested in the morning.

They Could Reduce Eye Strain and Fatigue

Extended screen time and exposure to blue light may lead to digital eye strain, causing symptoms like dry eyes, headaches, and fatigue. Blue light glasses filter out the wavelengths of light most likely to cause eye strain and visual fatigue. Some research shows wearing computer glasses with blue light protection can help reduce dry eye symptoms and ease eye strain from prolonged device use.

While more research is still needed, blue light glasses show promise for improving sleep quality, reducing eye strain, and easing symptoms of digital eye strain. The effects seem most pronounced when the glasses are worn in the evening before bedtime. For the best results, blue light glasses should be combined with other good sleep hygiene practices like limiting screen time and bright lights before bed. When used as part of a comprehensive eye care and technology management plan, blue light glasses may be an effective tool for reducing the negative impacts of blue light exposure.

Using Blue Light Glasses Safely and Effectively

Look for Glasses That Block at Least 99% of Blue Light

The most effective blue light glasses will block at least 99% of blue light in the 400 to 500 nm range. While some glasses only reduce a portion of blue light, blocking 99% or more provides the maximum benefit for eye health and sleep quality. Glasses with 'blue light protection' or that only block 60-70% of blue light may not provide comprehensive protection and benefits.

Choose Glasses That Are Anti-reflective and Scratch Resistant

Glasses that are anti-reflective help reduce glare and eye strain. Scratch-resistant lenses also provide durability and longevity. Since you will likely be wearing these glasses for extended periods while viewing digital screens and electronic devices, anti-reflective, scratch-resistant lenses are ideal.

Consider Computer Glasses For Maximum Blue Light Protection

Computer glasses, like those designed for computer use and viewing digital screens, often provide the highest level of blue light protection. They are specialized for long duration use and built to reduce digital eye strain and fatigue. If you spend long periods looking at computers, tablets, and phones, computer glasses may be your best option.

Look for UV Protection

In addition to blue light protection, glasses that block UVA and UVB rays provide complete protection from harmful light spectrums. UV light exposure is damaging to eye health and the skin around the eyes. Glasses that block both blue light and UV rays are optimal for well-rounded eye health and function.

Choose a Style You Will Want to Wear Consistently

The best blue light glasses are ones you will want to wear regularly and as recommended. Choose a style of frames that you find comfortable, attractive and that suits your facial features. Styles that are too uncomfortable or that you do not like the appearance of will not provide benefits if you do not want to wear them. Aim for a style you can see yourself using consistently for maximum protection and benefits.

FAQs About Blue Light Glasses

Blue light glasses, also known as computer glasses, can be an effective way to reduce digital eye strain and potentially improve your sleep quality. However, as with any tool, they need to be used properly to maximize the benefits. Here are some tips to use blue light glasses safely and effectively:

Choose Glasses That Actually Block Blue Light

To start, choose glasses that actually block blue light. Look for glasses that block at least 50% of blue light in the 400 to 500 nanometer range. Some glasses marketed as “computer glasses” may not actually block much blue light. Verify the glasses’ specifications before purchasing.

Get Glasses with an Anti-reflective Coating

Get glasses with an anti-reflective coating. This helps reduce glare from screens and overhead lights. The coating also helps ensure the maximum amount of blue light is blocked. Without an anti-reflective coating, some blue light can reflect off the back of the lens into your eyes.

Consider Your Screen Time and Usage

Consider your screen time and usage. If you spend long hours looking at digital screens, especially in the evening, blue light glasses can be particularly helpful. However, for limited screen use, their benefits may be modest. Blue light glasses work best when combined with other good vision habits like taking regular breaks from looking at bright screens, reducing glare on your tech devices, and practicing the 20-20-20 rule (looking away into the distance every 20 minutes for 20 seconds).

Experiment with Different Styles

You may need to try different styles to get the right fit and level of blue light protection for you. Strengths and lens tints can vary between pairs of glasses. It may take some experimenting to find glasses that reduce eye strain for your needs and activities. Some people also prefer more stylish glasses for work and social use.

Used properly and as part of a comprehensive eye health and wellness plan, blue light glasses can be an effective way to reduce digital eye strain, improve sleep, and support long-term eye health. However, like any tool, they need to be used safely and for the appropriate purposes to provide benefits. By following these tips, you can get the most out of your blue light glasses.

Roger Sarkis