Are blue light blocking glasses a fad or something everyone should be wearing? A lot of research is surfacing regarding blue light and its effects on our eyes, sleep, and overall health. First, I’ll address the basics of blue light followed by pros and cons of this light. Lastly, we will discuss who might benefit from blue light blocking glasses. To skip straight to the glasses click here: what is the best blue light blocking glasses?
Fun Fact: We see a blue sky because the shorter wavelength of blue light scatters more easily when it hits air and water. 😃
What is blue light?
Light is made up of various electromagnetic radiation wavelengths. Longer wavelengths, like red light, have less energy. Whereas a shorter wavelength, yup blue light, has more energy.
About 1/3 of the light your eyes filter is the higher energy blue light. This is increasing as our artificial light exposure increases. Sunlight is still the main source of all light, but fluorescent lighting, LED lighting, and screens (smart phones, tablets, e-readers, computers, and flat screen TVs) are becoming an increasing source of blue light.
Fun Fact: American adults spend more than 11 hours per day interacting with screens
Is Blue Light Harmful?
Not all blue light is bad. In fact, certain wavelengths of blue light are actually a necessary thing during the day because it boosts attention and reaction times, improves memory and cognitive function and elevates our mood. In Alaska, where it can be dark for months, people actually sit in front of SAD lights (mostly blue light) for these very reasons! The key with blue light is the wavelength. Blue light ranges from 380 nm to 500 nm. Research has shown that blue light in the 400-470 nm range is the most damaging and can lead to premature development of cataracts and macular degeneration. This will be an important range to remember further down the post.
What are the effects of excessive and/or nighttime exposure to blue light?
Digital Strain: Because blue light scatters more easily, it creates a visual “noise” when we stare at a screen which leads to digital eye strain. This has been documented in numerous studies and logically makes sense.
Potential Increased Risk of Macular Degeneration: Our eyes do a great job blocking UV light. They are not so great at filtering blue light. Virtually all visible blue light passes through the cornea and lens and reaches the retina. Keep in mind that our children’s lenses are thinner, making them more susceptible to the effects of blue light. In the digital world we live in, people are being exposed to increased sources of blue light at a much younger age. Since blue light damage is a cumulative effect, over time, this exposure can damage the cells responsible for nourishing the retina as well as the cones (involved in central and color vision).
Disruption of Sleep: Exposure to blue light at night through the use of screens and indoor lighting, has been shown to suppress melatonin production, sleepiness, and morning alertness. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates the sleep/wake cycle, and the circadian rhythm is what triggers it’s release. If your rhythm is off, your melatonin will be off or even suppressed.
Fun Fact: 1 in 3 Americans aren’t getting enough sleep at night
Other Serious Health Concerns: According to a Harvard article, “Some studies suggest a link between exposure to light at night, such as working the night shift, to some types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.” There is new research that is suggesting (not concluding) that the suppression of melatonin may be associated with these various health conditions.
Furthermore, Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher, believes that light at night is one of the main reasons people don’t get enough sleep. We. Need. Sleep. It’s true.
*My personal/professional opinion is that more research needs to be done to definitively say that blue light over-exposure and/or blue light exposure at night definitively causes serious health issues. However, I do feel there is enough evidence showing that blue light exposure is increasing and that it can lead to early eye strain and earlier onset of eye disease. So, I think that limiting blue light exposure does have significant benefit, possibly more than we know.
Who needs to limit blue light exposure?
Everyone can benefit from limiting certain sources of blue light at certain times of the day. BUT, based on the research I reviewed, the following people should be the most proactive:
– night-shift workers
– those who spend most of their day in front of some sort of screen
– people who are unable to avoid screens within 2 hours of bedtime
– children (more the artificial blue light rather than sunlight)
How can I reduce my exposure to blue light?
Bright Light Exposure During the Day! Expose yourself to bright lights (sunlight 🌞 best) during the day, the earlier the better, to reinforce your wake/sleep cycle.
Turn Off the Lights at Night! This is especially true if you use LED lights. I drive my mother-in-law crazy because I rarely turn lights on in my house. I can’t really say it has been because I am avoiding blue light – I just don’t think about it unless I really can’t see what I am doing. I’ll be sure to let her know how beneficial this has likely been for our sleep😄😉
Use Red Night Lights! The red light wavelength has the least potential for disrupting your circadian rhythm and suppressing melatonin. I just ordered these for my kiddos’ rooms.
Reduce Screen Time! Easier said than done, right? But really, this is healthy on so many levels, and it is free! This is most important in the 2-3 hours before you go to bed; avoiding blue light (and ideally green light) during this time will help your body enter it’s natural sleep cycle and promote melatonin production. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Association of Optometrists, daily screen time should be limited to the following time periods for each age group:
less than 2 years = no screen time
2-5 years = 1 hour max
more than 5 years = 2 hour max
**I encourage you to check out Brave Parenting, a very informative website about managing the media aspect of your children’s lives including how to keep them safe in this media world.
20-20-20 Rule The American Optometric Association recommends that people who work on screens for long periods, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds and repeat this exercise every 20 minutes. Hmmm, there has to be an easier way….(keep reading)
Use a Screen Filter! If you or your child is unable to drop screen time within the above parameters, I would recommend trying a filter. This is especially true if the screen time occurs close to bedtime. There are a few options:
1) For children or for anyone whose screen time is primarily on one device, a screen filter would be the most economic option. However, these typically have a matte finish and can make looking at your device from certain angles difficult. Not usually a big deal for kids, but this is bothersome to a lot of adults. You would also want to read reviews and make sure they don’t scratch easily, another common problem I saw in reviews. Lastly, keep in mind screen time affects kiddos in other ways so best option is to limit their total time regardless of how much blue light is filtered.
2) If you have an iphone, go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift. Set the start time for about 2-3 hours before you go to bed. This will significantly decrease the blue light emitted from your phone during these hours. It does cause a warmer (yellowish) tint to your screen.
Use Blue-Light Blocking Glasses! This is my favorite option for people who work primarily at a computer screen, work a night shift, or engage in regular screen time within two hours of bed. With all the new research coming out about blue light, there are a LOT of glasses to choose from. Sooo,
What is the best blue-light blocking glasses?
The best is hard to define because style, light source and timing of your blue light exposure are all factors to consider. First, I strongly recommend you find out not just how much blue light is blocked, but what wavelengths the glasses block. Look for something that blocks at up to at least 450 nm. If the lens is clear, regardless of what the description says, it cannot block 100% of blue light – that is only achieved with an amber or red colored lens. A clear lens is only capable of blocking a maximum of 40% of blue light.
What is the best blue-light blocking glasses for sleep? Felix Gray
Felix Gray sleep glasses block almost 90% of blue light in the 440-500 nm wavelength range as well as 99% of glare. So, yes, these do have a slight amber tint to the lens, BUT apparently it makes little to no difference in visualization and allows you to see in “true color.” (My glasses are in route so I will provide a review soon)! They improve melatonin secretion by 2x. And, since they are available in non-prescription, prescription, reading, AND kid glasses, there is a pair for everyone! They even offer their most popular frames with extended nose pads for those with low nasal bridges.
Felix Gray offers 12 different adult styles of glasses, each in various colors. For the kids, there are 3 styles also available in a few colors.
I recommend Felix Gray Sleep Glasses for use from the time the sun goes down until the lights turn off at bedtime. The only people who may not need to use these are those who go to bed at sunset, or those who do not have LEDs in their home or who don’t partake in screentime during the the evening hours. Sooo, basically everyone could likely benefit from wearing these glasses in the evenings. For kids who sleep well (i.e. fall asleep fairly quickly and sleep 10-12 hours straight), I’d only recommend these if they engage in screen time in the evenings or excessive screen time during the day. These glasses are not intended for use during the day.
A pair of these bad boys and a cozy weighted blanket have the potential for an uh-mazing night’s sleep!
Return Policy: 30 day risk-free returns and exchanges; all purchases made between now and Christmas are eligible for an extended return & exchange period until 1/25/2020
What is the best blue light blocking glasses for Daytime Screen Use? DIFF
DIFF Eyewear definitely wins in the variety category. They offer 130 different styles of blue light blocking glasses. HOWEVER, their standard lenses only block 30% of 380 nm to 430 nm blue light, which is less, both in amount and wavelength range, when compared to Felix Gray. This is why these are the ideal glasses to prevent digital strain. If you work in front of a screen for the majority of your day, these would be a great accessory to help prevent headaches, premature eye damage, and blurred vision. There is an option to upgrade your lenses to the “premium” blue light blockers, but I would not recommend it. The premium lenses block 50% of the same range of blue light and have an amber tint. However, they still don’t compare to Felix Gray glasses for purposes of sleep improvement.
Return Policy: return unworn glasses in the original packaging within 30 days of purchase; $6 return fee is subtracted from your refund. YOU CANNOT RETURN SALE ITEMS!
What is the best blue light blocking glasses for Night-Shift Workers? Somnilight
If you work at night, I’d recommend something stronger. Somnilight Amber Sleep Glasses block almost 100% of up to 550 nm blue light. Wear these for the last 2-3 hours of your work day (at least) so that the sleep you do get when you get home is more restful. These are the best blue light blocking glasses in regards to efficacy; however, THEY WILL CHANGE THE WAY THINGS LOOK. Watching TV or trying to work on a computer would definitely not be the same, which is why I did not rate them as the best overall glasses. They just aren’t as practical. However, if you are a night shift worker or have severe sleep problems, the benefit probably outweighs the cons. Another perk with this company, free shipping!
Return Policy: 60 day money back guarantee; so, again, night shift workers or insomniacs, you’ve got nothing to lose!
My Final Thoughts
Artificial blue light is being linked to many eye health issues. We are being exposed to an increasing amount of blue light through digital devices and energy-saving light sources. For me, there is enough evidence that blue-light blocking glasses can provide benefit, especially to those of us who work on screens and/or use screens in the evening.
If you use screens during the evening hours or tend to leave your LEDs on until you go to bed, I’d highly recommend a pair of Felix Gray sleep glasses to promote normal melatonin secretion and better sleep. Use code THANKS15 for 15% off, but hurry, sale ends soon!
If staring at a screen is part of your job during the day, get a pair of DIFF glasses to reduce the amount of blue light your eyes have to filter in order to protect your eyes and prevent digital eye strain. Black Friday deal BOGO free or Buy 2 Get 3 Free ends Dec. 3rd!!
If you do both of these things – day and night use of screens – get a pair of each if you can!
If you are a night shift worker, get a pair of Somnilight Amber Sleep glasses to wear during the last few hours of your shift.