If you’ve bought a new pair of prescription glasses lately, you’ve probably seen deals on blue filter lenses that claim to reduce eye strain and reduce sleep disturbances that come with using digital screens. But do they live up to the hype? Let’s take a look.
There are several claims about the benefits of glasses that filter out blue light (which we’ll get to below), but first, let’s take a look at how the lenses filter out blue light.
It’s simple: each blue light blocking lens is tinted to let more red and green light through and less blue light. Not all blue light is typically blocked, and the amount of blue light that is reduced varies by lens type and manufacturer.
When you wear blue light-blocking glasses, your eyes are exposed to yellow light (a combination of red and green light getting through). You will see the world with a more yellowish hue.
To determine the effectiveness of blue light blocking lenses, you need to separate different claims about them. A common claim is that they reduce eye strain when viewing screens on devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) there is currently no scientific evidence that light from digital screens damages or causes eyestrain. Actually the organization quotes a recent study This suggests that eye strain is not reduced by blue light filtering lenses compared to fully clear lenses.
Instead, the AAO recommends reducing eye strain by reducing screen time and taking regular breaks while using your digital devices.
ONE Study 2019 somewhat supports this assertion. LensCrafters offers a solution, claiming that its blue light filtering lenses can help prevent this interference. But fortunately in the Study the quoted company, participants’ melatonin levels recovered to normal 15 minutes after they stopped looking at screens—no special glasses were needed.
The hypothesis behind the sleep-disrupting nature of artificial blue light is that the earth’s natural day and night cycles regulate our internal clocks, which keeps us energized during the day when the sunlight is brightest and naturally makes us sleepy at night when the light is dim. If you stay up late looking at your bright blue tablet or smartphone, you may be sending the wrong signals to your brain, telling it to be alert when it should be getting sleepy.
However, if this hypothesis is correct, you need exposure to both blue light and warm, yellow light to function properly throughout the day. It is no exaggeration to suggest that wearing blue-blocking contact lenses throughout the day would be possible prevent you from getting the blue light exposure you need needed to make you feel awake. You may feel sleepy all day when wearing.
That said, if you get blue light glasses, it might be best to only wear them in the evenings. ONE recent systematic study suggested that blue light glasses have a positive effect on people with insomnia when worn in the evening. But this study also suggests that blue blockers are most effective when worn specifically as part of active medical treatment for insomnia rather than a 24-hour lens solution for your regular glasses.
And in the end, wearing prescription blue-blocking glasses might not matter because the lenses aren’t standardized, according to the manufacturer an article in the Harvard Heart Letter. This means there is no guarantee that the blue light lenses you buy will block the right frequencies or the right amount of blue light to have any effect at all. Your mileage may vary.
With the mixed reputation of blue filter glasses, there is a more affordable way to keep your eyes healthy. For eyestrain, take a break every 20 minutes while using a digital screen. And to avoid screen disruption, experts recommend not using devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers 2-3 hours before bedtime.
If you use screens at night, use a warm light filter like Apple’s Night Shift or Microsoft’s Night Light or Google’s Night Mode to reduce the amount of blue light coming off your screen. If you enjoy reading digital books at night, consider buying a Kindle. eReaders that use e-ink have screens that are easy on the eyes.
The all-new Kindle Paperwhite (8GB) – now with a 6.8-inch display and adjustable warm light – ad-supported
A great night reader with adjustable warm backlight.
Anyone who has been around for more than a few decades has seen health fads come and go. Some of them Gadgets include, some pursue new technologies (like television and computers) and some respond to blockbuster studies that are overrated and sometimes later contradicted.
The best time to be skeptical of a health claim that involves the purchase of a product from someone who is not a doctor is when the product is relatively new. Blue light glasses are all the rage right now because frequent screen use in bed is relatively new. In the years to come, the trend could pass if people find blue light glasses less beneficial than expected or if the next tech innovation makes the scenario obsolete. Alternatively, further scientific studies could support the positive effect of blue light glasses. Solid science takes time.
In the meantime, follow your doctor’s advice and try to do everything (including screen time) in moderation. Stay healthy!
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