Blue blocking glasses, or “blue blockers”, are a relatively new addition to the mainstream eyewear industry, and they have hit the market by storm. From claiming headache relief, to improved eye health, it seems there is nothing theses lenses can’t do! Blue blocking glasses seem to be something we’ve been missing for years, and marketers have made us believe we can’t live without them. From high-end optical shops, to videogame retailers, if you’re looking at glasses, with or without blue blocking is now an option. Why is it all of the sudden such a big deal to put this on our glasses? And what’s the purpose anyway?
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To understand why we’d want to block blue light, we need to first understand light and how our bodies react to it. Visible light is a spectrum of wavelengths that our eyes have adapted to respond to. Our color spectrum is purple on one end, and red on the other. The strongest, most “intense” light is on the purple side. This is also the side that is closest to UV light, which as we know is damaging to our eyes. The “weakest” or “least intense” light is on the red side. Our eyes are meant to encounter all these different types of light, and our brains have adapted to understand what each of them mean.
Natural daylight is full of blue light. This blue light tells our body it is daytime and is critical in allowing us to see all of the vibrant hues of our planet. As the day fades, as does the blue light. This tells our body that the day is ending. As the sun sets, we are left with yellow, orange, and red; less intense wavelengths. This transition is not only visibly apparent but induces changes in our bodies.
Blue light suppresses melatonin, a sleep hormone. As we go about our day bathed in blue light, our bodies know it’s daytime and appropriately suppress chemicals that make us tired. As night approaches and the blue light fades, more melatonin is allowed to flow through our system, helping prepare us for sleep. This sleep-wake cycle is known as the circadian rhythm. This process was experienced naturally for thousands of years, until humans developed artificial light.
Artificial light comes in many forms, from fluorescent bulbs, to LCD and LED screens. The use and application of these light sources has increased exponentially in the last 50 years. Now, in developed nations, nearly every home and pocket contain a device with a screen. These screens are an unnatural source of blue light, and one that we can be exposed to at any time, day or night. Herein lies the problem with blue light, and the most significant argument for blue blocking glasses. Recalling our circadian rhythm, we should really only be exposed to blue light during “waking” hours, i.e., daytime. However, technology has allowed us to disrupt our rhythm. By viewing blue light sources after the sun has set, we’re effectively telling our body that it is still daytime, suppressing our melatonin, and prolonging the natural sleep cycle. So blue light inherently is not a bad thing, however when viewed inappropriately, it has the potential to negatively impact our health.
So now that we know more about blue light, how can we better regulate it? If you notice the lights in your home, they are likely incandescent. This type of light falls on the “warmer” end of the spectrum, verses fluorescent, which falls on the “cooler” side. The less blue in a light source the “warmer” it will appear. This is not only more comfortable for our eyes, it is a healthier light for night-time use, which is when we are most likely to turn our lights on anyway. In terms of screens, I recommend trying to limit screen time to daylight hours if possible. If not, then the use of blue blocking glasses may be helpful in easing eye fatigue, and promoting a healthy circadian rhythm. If wearing specific eyewear is impractical or uncomfortable, I recommend altering the screen or monitor settings to a warmer mode, sometimes labeled as “night-time mode”. Many people find that wearing blue light glasses or changing their screen settings during the day is helpful too. This is not going to put the wearer to sleep, and if it is more comfortable, especially those on screens for several hours, I would recommend it.
As mentioned above, blue light is one of the more intense colors of light we can view, and by shifting the color spectrum to a warmer hue, many experience a more relaxed viewing experience. So, blue light glasses will not fix everything. However, implementing strategies to regulate your exposure to blue light, specifically decreasing it during night-time hours, may prove beneficial. If you have more questions, or you’ve tried blue light glasses and are still experiencing eye fatigue or trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor and/or see the links below.