Blue light-blocking glasses may seem like an appealing solution if you have a lot of screen time and experience eyestrain, headaches, or difficulty falling asleep at night. However, there are much better alternatives, according to research.
Blue light can indeed interfere with your circadian rhythm and the release of melatonin, which can affect sleep patterns. But, the evidence that blue light filtering glasses actually work is fragile.
They Don’t Reduce Eye Strain
Blue light-blocking glasses are supposed to reduce eye strain, dry eyes, and headaches from digital screens. They do so by filtering out blue light, the highest-energy part of the visible light spectrum. This light comes from LED lights, digital screen devices like smartphones and tablets, and even the sun.
However, no scientific evidence shows that these glasses significantly reduce eye fatigue or discomfort. This is because the lenses don’t entirely block out blue light. Instead, they shift the light toward the reddish end of the spectrum, which isn’t enough to reduce eye strain. The only way to truly mitigate the effects of blue light exposure is to minimize screen time before bed or to use a device’s “dark” mode at night.
The claim that blue light-blocking glasses improve sleep is based on the idea that the blue rays emitted by screens disrupt our natural sleep-wake cycle. However, there’s no biological reason why they would do this. It’s more likely that the disruption is caused by overuse of these devices or the lack of blinking, which occurs when people look at screens for long periods.
If you’re still interested in a pair of blue light glasses, there are plenty of options online. Many retailers offer prescription blue light-blocking glasses and affordable non-prescription frames. Some of these stores also let you upgrade your frames with features like blue light filters. Just read reviews before purchasing any product and speak with a doctor or optometrist if you’re concerned about your eye health.
They Don’t Help You Sleep Better
Despite the hype, there’s no evidence blue light-blocking glasses reduce digital eyestrain, help you sleep better, or prevent headaches. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends other tried-and-true approaches to eye strain and insomnia, including avoiding screens an hour or two before bed, taking regular eye breaks (try the 20-20-20 rule: for every 20 minutes you focus on your screen, look away from it for 20 seconds), using artificial tears to lubricate dry eyes, sitting farther back from your computer to prevent glare, getting plenty of exercise, drinking tart cherry juice to boost melatonin levels in the evening, and sleeping on a comfortable mattress.
Moreover, the blue light-blocking lenses sold commercially and in prescription eyeglasses must be standardized. This means they can vary significantly in the amount of blue light they block, and you will know which specific wavelengths are being blocked once you try on a pair. And the ones that filter out some blue light may still allow you to see blue colors, making them pretty useless.
If you’re experiencing a persistent headache or fatigue from staring at screens, visit your optometrist for an eye exam. It could be a sign of an uncorrected astigmatism or other vision problem. And if you do buy some blue light glasses, make sure they truly filter out the full range of blue wavelengths to be effective.
They Don’t Protect Your Eyes From Age-Related Macular Degeneration
There is no evidence that blue light-blocking glasses help protect your eyes from age-related macular degeneration (AMD). They have also been shown to increase glare on screens. This makes them unsuitable for driving or using a computer for long periods. While the glow might be annoying, it isn’t dangerous, and there are ways to reduce it.
The premise behind blue-light-blocking glasses is that the wavelengths in the light emitted by digital devices harm your eyes and contribute to the symptoms of “digital eye strain,” including headaches, dry eyes, blurry vision, and irritated eyes. But the reality is the symptoms associated with screen usage are mostly just annoyances. They do not cause any damage to the eye, nor does prolonged exposure to blue light harm your eyesight.
Besides that, blue-light-blocking glasses have been found to do little to alleviate the symptoms of eyestrain and sleep disorders associated with excessive screen use. Instead, try to minimize the amount of screen time you spend and use a blue-light filter for your smartphone or tablet, which will limit your exposure to high-energy blue light.
If you wear prescription glasses, many of the retailers featured in this guide can offer effective frames bolstered with a blue-light add-on coating for a small additional cost. Just be sure to discuss any changes to your prescription with a qualified eye care professional before making them.
They Don’t Help You Avoid Headaches
If you were thinking that blue light glasses would also prevent migraines (they’re often sold with an amber tint that reduces brightness) or eye strain, we have some bad news: There’s no evidence that they do either. Some people report that they do help with those issues, but there’s no reliable research on them that proves this. Rather, headaches caused by digital screen use tend to be tied to other factors, such as the screens’ glare or the fact that we’re staring at them for hours on end.
It turns out that the blue wavelengths of light emitted by screens suppress the secretion of melatonin, a hormone essential for sleep regulation. This suppression is most potent an hour or two before bedtime and an hour after you wake up, which might explain why scrolling through your phone while in bed can lead to restless sleep and a pounding head.
While we can’t guarantee that blue light-blocking glasses will make you less prone to headaches or other symptoms of screen overuse, we recommend that you try making some other simple changes in your daily habits. These include taking frequent breaks from your device, using eye drops to treat dry eyes, and wearing comfortable frames that fit you well. If you still struggle with eyestrain or a throbbing head, visit an ophthalmologist or optometrist to get tested for an underlying cause and to see what other remedies might work.