3 Benefits of Blue-Light-Blocking Glasses
What are blue-light-blocking glasses, and do they offer any science-backed benefits? Here's what eye experts think.
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Benefits of blue-light-blocking glasses
Have you ever experienced digital eye strain or dry eyes after working on the computer all day? If so, you’ve probably had a friend or two suggest blue-light-blocking glasses.
Companies like Warby Parker and Felix Gray sell them as modern alternatives to the amber-tinted safety glasses of decades past. These chic specs have renewed the buzz around blue-light blockers.
But optometrist Amanda Korth, DO, says blue light is completely natural. Even the sun emits blue light. The constant exposure from digital screens, however, isn’t normal or healthy.
That’s because blue light affects your body’s ability to release sleep-inducing melatonin, according to optometrist James Kundart, OD, a professor of optometry at Pacific University.
So do you need blue-light-blocking glasses? Below, our eye experts discuss the science-backed benefits versus the marketing blather.
They help regulate your sleep schedule
The most common claim is that blue-light glasses help regulate sleep. This is also the only airtight argument for wearing these specs.
“The only proven benefit to blue-light-absorbing yellow tint is to allow melatonin to properly be released at night, allowing us to fall asleep on time,” Kundart says.
Blocking blue light from your digital devices in the evening helps your body stay in sync with the natural rise and fall of sunlight.
One study of 14 people with insomnia, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, found that wearing blue-light-blocking amber lenses in wraparound frames for two hours before sleeping improved symptoms after just one week.
It’s worth noting this was a small study. Still, Kundart points out this is one of the blue-light glasses benefits researchers have known for over 20 years.
(Does red light help sleep?)
They could ease light-sensitivity headaches
Many companies claim their blue-light glasses prevent headache-inducing digital eye strain. Korth says incorrect prescriptions, poor posture, and dry eyes are more likely headache culprits.
The exception to this, she says, is people with photophobia—aka, light sensitivity.
Some people are sensitive to fluorescent lights, bright sunlight, and the light from digital screens. “These are my patients who tend to have major benefits to the blue-light [glasses],” Korth says.
She explains that if you’re sensitive to bright lights, you tend to squint. This stresses the muscles around your eyes and head and leads to tension headaches. She says blocking blue light helps because it reduces glare and the amount of light reaching your eyes.
They may help prevent macular degeneration
Research is ongoing, but blocking blue light could help reduce your risk of macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is one of the more concerning causes of blurry vision.
Experts know UV light contributes to macular degeneration, Korth says, “and there are hypotheses that blue light could be a factor.”
Kundart says more research is necessary to determine if blue-light glasses should be recommended for all. However, he suggests those with a family history of retinal disease wear them as an inexpensive prevention method.
The easiest way to incorporate them into your daily wear for eye-disease prevention is to talk to your optometrist. Ask your doctor about adding an amber tint to your prescription lenses.
What blue-light-blocking glasses can’t do
Despite some brands’ claims otherwise, Kundart says there is no evidence that blue-light-blocking glasses reduce eye strain or treat dry eyes. These factors are far more likely to help your eye issues:
- blinking often
- taking breaks from digital screens
- proper posture
- correct device positioning
If you’re dealing with dry eyes, including symptoms like blurry vision or redness, wearing blue-light-blocking glasses won’t help.
You’re much more likely to get relief from eye drops or a new type of contact lenses. And if dry eyes interfere with your daily life, Korth recommends talking to your eye doctor. An optometrist can help you pinpoint the cause of the issue.
While some people continue wearing blue-light glasses for eye strain, a 2017 research review published in Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics concluded there is not enough high-quality evidence to support using blue-light glasses to combat the side effects of too much screen time.
That’s the same reason the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) does not recommend wearing them.
How to find high-quality blue-light-blocking eyewear
If you struggle with insomnia or are at risk for macular degeneration, wearing blue-light-blocking glasses could be beneficial. So how do you know which specs are worth investing in?
“Without recommending a specific brand, I would remind consumers that to be effective, the yellow tint has to be visible without holding the glasses up to a white surface,” Kundart says.
Korth adds that the only blue-light-blocking products she recommends are the Epic Blue anti-glare coating for glasses, GUNNAR Optiks gaming and computer glasses, and Acuvue Oasys with Transitions contact lenses, which get slightly darker when exposed to bright sunlight.
Other ways to protect your eyes in the digital age
Whether your job requires computer work or not, you probably spend hours in front of a screen each day. The AAO offers several suggestions to minimize eye strain from the use of digital devices. Here are a few recommendations:
- Keep your eyes about an arm’s length from the screen.
- Use the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a break from the screen by looking at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
- Position your screen slightly below eye level.
- Reduce glare by using a matte screen filter.
- Increase the contrast on your screen.
- If you wear contact lenses, give your eyes a break by wearing glasses during screen time.
Now that you know these blue-light-glasses benefits, learn the sunglasses myths that could ruin your eyes.
- Amanda Korth, OD, optometrist at Prairie Vision Center of Bondurant in Bondurant, Iowa
- James Kundart, OD, MEd, FAAO, FCOVD-A, professor of optometry at Pacific University
- American Optometric Association: "Blue-light hype or much ado about nothing?"
- Journal of Psychiatric Research: "Blocking nocturnal blue light for insomnia: A randomized controlled trial"
- Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics: "The effect of blue-light blocking spectacle lenses on visual performance, macular health and the sleep-wake cycle: a systematic review of the literature"
- American Academy of Ophthalmology: "Are Blue Light-Blocking Glasses Worth It?"