An overly-hyped waste of money or game-changing tools for screen junkies?
If your job requires you to stare into a computer screen for hours at a time, you have likely experienced eye strain at one time or another. One answer being sold by glasses manufacturers are blue-light-blocking glasses. In this piece, we’re going to look at what these glasses do and if they really are the answer to screen-related eye strain.
What is blue light?
As we’ve discussed before in our piece about dark mode computer screen settings, blue light is a color of light that helps trigger our brains to enter a state of heightened awareness with the rising of the sun. Daylight contains a lot of blue light, which reduces melatonin triggers our brains to stay alert. However, constantly staring into a blue-light-emitting screen can overwork our eyes and cause them to be strained and our brains confused after sundown.
What do blue-light-blocking glasses do?
In order to combat the flood of blue light into our eyes from computer and device screens, many glasses manufacturers offer a lens coating that blocks a majority of blue light. These lenses commonly have a yellow-light tint — some very evident and others much less so. Some are designed to be worn only when working for long hours on a computer. Others can be worn all day without a dramatic change to the perception of other colors.
But don’t most devices offer blue-light filters?
It is true that most modern computer systems and devices offer a blue light filtering mode. These filters remove a majority of the blue light emitted from computer screens. In the past, some computer users even used blue-light filters that covered the entire screen of their computers. Still, many do not remove all blue light. Those that do also leave the screens looking yellow and unpleasant.
Blue Light & Circadian Rhythms
Even more than combatting eye strain, one of the most significant reasons for using blue-light-blocking glasses is to regulate your circadian rhythms. Set by the presence of daylight, circadian rhythms dictate when your body feels that it is day time or night time. Because daylight contains ample blue light, our brains have associated blue light with day time. However, everything from televisions, cell phones, and computer screens also give off mass quantities of blue light. If you’ve had trouble sleeping immediately after staring into a computer screen, mobile device, or television for hours leading up to bedtime, it’s likely because your circadian rhythms have been impacted by the blue light. Blue-light-blocking glasses can be extremely helpful in these instances. Even though this is so, you’re best off avoiding screens for at least an hour before bed.
The Availablity of Blue-Light-Blocking Glasses
There was a time when yellowed blue-light-blocking glasses for indoor use were only available from a handful of manufacturers and in limited styles. Today, with the dramatic increase in screentime for the average person, most lens manufacturers offer blue-blocking capabilities as an additional coating on most lenses.
So, do blue-light-blocking glasses work?
As a wearer of blue-light blocking glasses, I will personally say they do help with screen-related eye strain and fatigue. Still, that’s not their main benefit — which is blocking blue light in the evenings. Blocking blue light before bedtime is very helpful in allowing the brain to “believe” that it is night and settle down for a good night’s rest. A good night’s sleep is the best defense against eye strain during the day. Still, the best practice one can do to lessen the amount of blue light one is exposed to before bed is to simply avoid screens about an hour before bed. Instead, opt for a good book, listen to a podcast, or spend time with loved ones. These activities will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep better.
Can I wear blue-blocking glasses all day?
More people are becoming familiar with the melatonin-altering effects of blue light as well as spending more and more time on their devices. Because of this, many glasses manufacturers now provide the option of a blue-blocking coating that can be comfortably worn all day. These coatings do not overly augment the appearance of other colors. Heavily yellow-tinted computer glasses specifically made for computer usage, much like reading glasses, should probably not be worn all the time to avoid any side effects.
What are some alternatives to blue-blocking glasses?
Most device and systems manufacturers have developed specific modes for night-time use. These modes decrease the emission of blue light via the system's software.
iOS (iPad or iPhone)
You can engage a night mode on most iOS devices in the Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift. In addition to manually activating this mode, you can also schedule sessions where the mode turns on automatically at certain hours.
For a similar feature, you can activate or schedule a "Blue light filter" by going to Settings > Display > Blue light filter.