Do You Need Blue Light Blocking Glasses?

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
February 15, 2020
Do You Need Blue Light Blocking Glasses?

Oprah’s 2019 annual list of favorite things included blue light blocking glasses -- prescription or non-prescription eye wear that filter out blue light on the higher end of the visible light spectrum. Blue light blocking glasses supposedly ease eye strain, help you sleep better and have gained popularity over the last few years. In fact, sales of these glasses are expected to surpass 27 million dollars by 2024, according to Market Watch. But are blue light glasses worth the investment? Here’s what you need to know.

What is Blue Light?

In order to understand blue light, you need to first need a basic understanding of light. Light is divided into two categories – visible and invisible. Visible light rays contain shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and blue violet. When combined they form the spectrum of color known as white light or sunlight. 

Rays on the red side of the visible spectrum are longer and have less energy. Just beyond visible red side is invisible infrared, a type of radiation used in heating lamps, saunas and tanning beds. 

Meanwhile, on the blue violet side of the spectrum, the rays are shorter and have more energy. Visible blue violet is followed by ultra-violet radiation (or UV rays). UV rays help your body manufacture vitamin D, but excessive exposure can lead to sun burns, raising the risk for skin cancer.

Blue light falls between blue turquoise and blue violet, taking up about one third of the visible light spectrum. Sunlight emits natural blue light; whereas, electronic devices, smart phones, smart televisions, tablets; laptops, LED lights and fluorescent lights emit artificial blue light.  

Pros and Cons of Blue Light

Exposure to healthy amounts of natural blue and red light during the day help regulate circadian rhythms –enabling you sleep better at night, which helps control hormone levels, body temperature and immune function.

But too much artificial blue light – particularly without the balance of red light – affects the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a small portion of the brain’s hypothalamus that’s responsible for controlling circadian rhythms . This interferes with sleep. It also slows the flow of melatonin, a hormone also involved in regulating the sleep/wake cycle.       

Many of us are exposed to artificial blue light around the clock. During the day we use laptops and overhead lights. And at night we watch television, read a tablet or check our phone. 

Blue light can also damage your eyes, according to researchers at The University of Toledo. The light transforms vital molecules in the eye’s retina into cell killers, which can lead to eye strain, poor focus and age-related macular degeneration.

You can control your exposure to blue light by adding an anti-blue light screen to your phone, changing the light settings on your laptop display to Night and wearing blue light glasses. Which brings us to the question at hand – are blue light glasses effective?     

Do Blue Light Blocking Glasses Work?

The short answer is yes. The lenses have filters that block or absorb blue light. Some glasses even block out UV light.  

“The question really isn’t if they work. The question is do you need them,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “Many ophthalmological experts say no.”

The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Association of Optometrists (UK) haven’t recommended any specific eyewear for counteracting blue light because there isn’t enough scientific evidence to suggest that blue light can impair your eyesight.   

“If your eyes are strained, take a break from devices. Of course, if you feel blue light glasses protect your eyes — wear them. There doesn’t seem to be any harm in using them,” Kaminetsky says. “But if you’re having a problem sleeping at night and can’t cut back on using devices, you may benefit from wearing these glasses, especially in the evening.”

Blue light glasses can help regulate sleeping patterns if worn at night, according to a study conducted by the University of Houston. If you find you can’t fall asleep after a few hours of watching television, they may be worth the investment.

Have vision questions? Consult your physician. Need a physician? Consider partnering with MDVIP. MDVIP doctors have the time to work with you to help you develop a personalized wellness program that includes vision. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health » 

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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