Are blue light glasses right for you?
What are blue light glasses and do you need them? Blue light is everywhere — while blue light from the sun is good for us, blue light from our digital device screens can be harmful to our eyes and can disrupt our sleep patterns. Blue light glasses shield your eyes from the blue light from your smartphones, monitors and tablets. More screen time — our digital devices have become indispensable to our daily lives in recent years — increases your exposure to blue light.
What is blue light?
Blue light is the portion of the visible light spectrum with the shortest wavelengths (400 to 500 nanometers or nm) and with the highest energy, hence it is often referred to as high-energy visible (HEV) light, explains Dr. David Friess, an optometrist with the Eyesafe Vision Health Advisory Board. Not all blue light is bad. Blue light from the sun "appears to contribute to physical and emotional health," Friess says.
How does blue light affect your eyes?
The lens and cornea of the eye protect the retina (the back of the eye) from UV rays. Blue light, however, can pass through these structures and reach the retina. Blue light exposure can contribute to computer vision syndrome (symptoms include red eyes, tired eyes, blurry vision and dry eyes) and keep you from getting a good night's rest.
How can blue light from our digital screens affect our vision? "One kind of blue light damages cells of the retina, while other blue light affects our wake/sleep cycle," Friess says.
How can blue light disrupt our wake/sleep cycle? The blue light given off by screens actually throws off patterns of sleep because it affects melatonin (sleep hormone) levels. "The brain associates blue light as daytime, so if a person is exposed to blue light for long periods of time during the night, blue light makes it more difficult for us to fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning," said Dr. Rohit Varma, an ophthalmologist and founding director of the Southern California Eyecare and Vision Research Institute.
How do blue light glasses work?
Blue light glasses block "the transmission of a specific segment or range of wavelengths," says Dr. Sherri Rowen, an ophthalmologist on the Eyesafe Vision Health Advisory Board. "The lenses are designed to help reduce the occurrence of digital eye strain and avoid circadian rhythm cycle disruption, affecting sleep and overall well-being," Rowen adds. Blue light lenses usually have a pale yellow tint, but this coloring is not always perceptible.
Who needs blue light glasses?
Digital screens are necessary for work and popular for messaging and social media. These activities can add up to a great deal of screen time, which can be harmful to anyone's eyes. "We get constant exposure to blue light from ambient sunlight, computer screens, tablets and mobile phones," Varma says.
How can you protect your eyes from the blue light emitted by all of your devices? Rowen suggests, "The best first step is to consult with an eye care professional who will help ascertain your needs for protection."
ASK AN EXPERT ABOUT BLUE LIGHT GLASSES: Find an optician near you to get advice on whether you need blue light glasses and recommendations to help you select the best pair to meet your vision needs.