What Scientific Research Says About Blue Light Glasses
So far, research doesn’t support the idea that blue light glasses can relieve digital eyestrain symptoms, such as headaches, dry eyes, or blurred vision. “There haven’t been any scientific studies that have proven they have any sort of health benefits,” says Vivienne Sinh Hau, MD, an ophthalmologist at Kaiser Permanente in Riverside, California.
According to a trial published in February 2021 in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, blue light glasses worn during a two-hour computer task did not change eyestrain symptoms whatsoever. And another small study, published January 2019 in Optometry and Vision Science, found that even though a blue-blocking filter used on a computer screen blocked 99 percent of wavelengths between 400 and 500 nanometers, it didn’t alleviate digital eyestrain symptoms any more effectively than a neutral filter.
That’s likely because blue light isn’t the only reason for digital eyestrain. “The screen-related issues that people are having with their eyes are indeed more likely related to dry eye, eyestrain — things like that,” says Lauren Branchini, MD, an ophthalmologist at UMass Memorial Medical Center and an assistant professor at UMass Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Those symptoms are more likely due to the way we interact with our devices. “When you’re staring at a screen, a tablet, your phone, whatever, you don’t blink as much as you would in natural conversation, so the eyes can get dryer,” Frempong says. “And the screen should be two feet away from the face and not smack-dab against your face.”
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In short, because blue light isn’t to blame for the headaches and dry eyes you’re feeling, blue light glasses likely won’t help.
But one thing these glasses do seem to help with is sleep. An article published in 2021 in Applied Psychology gathered data from 63 managers and found that wearing blue light glasses improved sleep quality and quantity. Wearing the glasses also improved work performance.
Another small trial, published January 2019 in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, found that amber-tinted blue light glasses worn for two hours before bed improved sleep for individuals with insomnia. It helped them fall asleep faster and log a longer, higher-quality night of sleep. The researchers think this is because the glasses reduced suppression of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone that that is suppressed during blue light exposure, according to a systematic review published in February 2019 in Chronobiology International. Yet the researchers from the Journal of Psychiatric Research trial did not specifically look at melatonin levels, so they cannot be sure if the glasses minimized that effect.
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Should You Try Blue Light Blocking Glasses?
While there is some evidence that blue light glasses can keep your screen time from messing with your sleep, they’re unlikely to relieve digital eyestrain symptoms altogether and won’t protect against macular degeneration.
None of this has stopped some doctors from touting them. Boots Opticians in the United Kingdom was fined about $56,000 for overstating claims that blue light lenses help prevent eye disease, according to Optometry Today.
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Some people swear these glasses offer relief, however. And if they work for you, go for it. There’s likely no harm, according to Baylor College of Medicine. “If you get a benefit or feel more comfortable wearing them, then wear them,” Frempong says. “They’re certainly not going to hurt you, but there’s no evidence that they’re helping you.”
The Best Blue Light Glasses, According to Health Experts
If you decide to give them a try, Dr. Hau recommends finding a pair with anti-glare lenses. You can easily find options with a quick Google search. Warby Parker sells blue-light-filtering lenses, which can be added to any frame for $50. Brands like Target and J.Crew sell blue light glasses for about $10, while options from Look Optic and Felix Gray cost around $65 to $95.
They’re not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, so it can be difficult to know if you’re getting a quality pair. Hau says to visit an optical shop that has an optometrist or ophthalmologist working on-site. “They should be selling legitimate products,” she says.
Dr. Branchini adds that though research so far doesn’t show a benefit to these glasses, that could change in the future as more studies are conducted. “I don’t routinely recommend them because I don’t think it’s been well demonstrated to have much benefit,” Branchini says. “That being said, the jury’s still out. We don’t really know for sure.”
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