If you often find yourself working late at night, you might be a little concerned about the effects of extended blue light exposure. We’ve all heard about the negative consequences of late-night screen time: the blue light from our smartphones, tablets, and laptops can keep us up way too late, night after night.
Blue light is so disruptive because it essentially tricks your brain into thinking that it’s still daytime—in other words, it’s time to be alert and stay awake, rather than wind down and go to sleep. It’s easy to see why this would be an issue. Basically, blue light exposure blocks you from producing melatonin, which is the hormone that makes you relaxed and sleepy at night. This interrupts your body’s usual circadian rhythm, which determines when you wake up and fall asleep, and if late-night screen time is a consistent habit, it can leave you feeling exhausted and lethargic day after day.
The obvious fix is to put away any digital devices a couple hours before you go to bed—but what if you typically have to work late and don’t have that option? Is there anything you can do to reduce the effects of blue light exposure while still using those devices? Some companies are now selling blue light blocking glasses, which they claim are a solution to a myriad of eye problems supposedly caused by blue light exposure.
Blue light blocking glasses are said to help with everything from getting better sleep to reducing digital eye strain to protecting against macular degeneration, which is a condition that causes blurred vision in the center of your visual field. Since all of this sounds pretty scary, it’s easy to see why so many people are interested in blue light blocking glasses.
So, what exactly are blue light blocking glasses? These glasses have special lenses with a yellow tint that block blue light from all sources. It’s important to note that blue light does not just come from screens—it can also come from fluorescent lighting, LED light, and even sunlight (which is why it signals your brain that it’s actually daytime at 11 p.m.). But do they actually live up to all of these claims?
Here’s the good news: blue light blocking glasses will help your circadian rhythm stay on track, even if you reach for your smartphone after the sun goes down or have to stay up late to work on your laptop. As long as the blue light from your screen is not reaching your eyes, you’ll still have plenty of melatonin in your system once it’s time for bed.
But here’s the catch—blue light doesn’t actually cause some of the problems that these companies claim it does. For example, there is no evidence that blue light causes true permanent eye damage like macular degeneration. Furthermore, blue light glasses can’t actually prevent digital eye strain. This is because blue light isn’t the real cause of digital eye strain. It’s caused by focusing your eyes on a screen for an extended period of time, and it can happen whether the screen is emitting blue light or yellow light. For instance, there are people who even experience eye strain from reading small print on paper—and clearly, books are not giving off blue light.
If you’ve found that using your devices late at night is keeping you up, blue light blocking glasses could be a good investment. But if you’re experiencing digital eye strain, don’t bother spending money on them—they’re not going to solve your problem. Is there anything you can do to prevent it from happening? The simple solution is following the 20-20-20 rule while working. When you are in front of a screen, take a break every 20 minutes to look at an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will give your eyes some relief.
There are also some concerns that blue light blocking glasses have not been studied enough to understand what other effects they could have on your eyes. Research reveals that while they are very helpful for melatonin production, there could also be some unforeseen effects. For example, the yellow tint of the lenses could be distracting or make eye strain even worse for some people. Plus, they can also feel a little clunky and awkward, especially if you are not used to wearing glasses.
So, what’s the verdict on blue light blocking glasses? If your devices are keeping you up at night, picking up a pair will probably help you get back to a healthy sleep routine. But when it comes digital eye strain, you can probably solve that problem for free.
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Photo: Vanlinker Eyewear via Instagram