Blue light comes from artificial light sources like the electronic screens on televisions, laptops, tablets and phones. It’s widely believed that regular over-exposure to blue light can cause a host of health problems, from trouble sleeping to headaches and eye discomfort to serious vision issues like macular degeneration and eye disease. That’s where blue light glasses come in.
These special glasses filter out the blue light coming from screens. In theory, this should reduce the negative consequences associated with looking at a phone or laptop for long periods of time. But is that true? And if so, are there any downsides? Continue reading to learn why wearing blue light glasses might not be the best option.
Some Blue Light Is Necessary for Your Health
One of the most common effects of exposure to blue light before bed is trouble sleeping. This is caused by over-stimulating the photosensitive cells at the back of the eye, which help regulate important functions like hormone levels and sleep patterns.
By spending a long time looking at the light from a television or phone screen, we effectively trick the eye and brain into believing it is still daytime. This suppresses the body’s production of hormones regulating sleep and disrupts our circadian rhythm.
However, the photoreceptors in the eye actually need some blue light to encourage the sleep cycle to function normally. One of the best ways to get this is by spending time outdoors, exposed to the full spectrum of light (including blue) in a natural setting.
If you’re wearing blue light blocking glasses outside, your body won’t get any of the benefits of sunlight exposure. In fact, blocking the natural blue light in sunlight from reaching your eyes “can be as detrimental to your sleep patterns as an excess of blue light would be.”
Instead of tricking your body into believing it’s permanently daytime, blue light glasses may have the opposite effect and trick the body into thinking it’s permanently night.
Blue Light Glasses Do Not Prevent Eye Strain
Manufacturers often claim that blue light glasses will protect the wearer not just from insomnia, but also more serious vision problems like digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome.
The symptoms of digital eye strain include:
- Blurred vision
- Dry, red or irritated eyes
- Sensitivity to light
Research shows that blue light glasses alone will not prevent eye strain. That’s because the real cause of eye strain is the way we look at artificial sources, not the blue quality of the light itself.
When looking at electronic screens, people tend to blink less, focus more intensely on the screen, and sometimes hold it very close to their face. Filtering or not filtering blue light without altering or reducing screen time won’t have any effect on eye strain problems.
In fact, a recent study from the National Library of Medicine stated that “there is little evidence at this time to support the use of blue-blocking filters as a clinical treatment” for digital eye strain.
The Yellow Tint On Blue Light Glasses Is Distracting
Many blue light glasses advertise the ability to block nearly 100% of blue light. This strong blocking ability is great for working on a computer late at night or reading your phone before bed, but it also has some downsides.
The glasses give everything a yellow tint, which can be distracting and dampen the enjoyment of watching a movie or TV show before bed. More seriously, the yellow hue can make driving difficult, especially at night.
Because the glasses remove the blue part of the spectrum, they alter the driver’s color perception and make certain objects less visible.It may even make it harder to distinguish between a red, yellow and green light. This effect is enhanced at night, when there is less light to begin with.
If your blue light glasses are also your prescription lenses, this may force you to choose between driving with reduced color perception and no prescription glasses at all.
Prescription Blue Light Glasses Can Be Expensive
One of the most popular options for blue light glasses are stylish frames designed for everyday use.
These look more like an ordinary pair of glasses, don’t have a strong yellow tint, and come in prescription and non-prescription versions. They’re fashionable enough to wear in the office, which is great for people who want to block blue light while working long hours on their work computer.
However, everyday blue light glasses can cost as much as buying another pair of prescription glasses, from $75 to $110. And if you need prescription glasses to see, this means you’ll be forced to take your glasses off when you go outside, or miss out on the benefits of natural sunlight.
Night Mode Makes Blue Light Glasses Redundant
Looking at artificial light sources like screens in the hours before bed can disrupt the sleep cycle.
One of blue light glasses’ major benefits is the ability to prevent this by filtering blue light. But in 2022, many electronic devices already have the option to reduce blue light built in with night mode or dark mode features.
Some of the products that have night mode:
- iPhones and iPads
- Mac computers
- Windows for PC
- Android mobile phones
- Many popular apps and web browsers
In fact, even Samsung smart TVs and the new XBox Series X have night mode options. With the number of devices offering night mode only growing, it seems like blue light glasses may be an increasingly unnecessary tool.
Overall, blue light glasses are great in certain situations but also have some downsides. Wearing them outside can prevent your body from getting the light it needs to regulate sleep patterns. The yellow tint is distracting when you’re watching tv or driving. Prescription blue light glasses can be expensive.
Perhaps the most important point is that blue light glasses don’t really fix eye strain. If you want to prevent the vision problems that come from extended use of electronics, it’s up to you to change your viewing habits by taking breaks and holding the phone at a safe distance.