With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing more of us to work, have meetings, and socialize online, the popularity of computer “blue light” glasses has been on the rise. But what exactly do these glasses do, and are they worth the investment?
In short, the answer is probably not. Most computer glasses are designed to filter out blue light, the high-energy light emitted by your computer, tablet, and phone screens. Manufacturers claim that excessive exposure to blue light can lead to issues like dry eyes, blurred vision, eye fatigue, headaches, and other symptoms of digital eyestrain.
However, Anne L. Coleman, M.D., a professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, Los Angeles, points out that blue light isn’t to blame for these problems. According to her, “The literature shows there is no evidence of any harm from blue light to the eyes, and there’s no evidence that blue-blocking lenses or filters make any difference at all.”
Research published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology in 2021 found that blue-blocking filters were no more effective at reducing digital eyestrain than neutral light filters that don’t block out blue light. Similarly, a Cochrane Library review in August did not find evidence that blue light filtering glasses reduced eyestrain from computer use.
So, what’s the real culprit behind tired, bleary eyes? Blinking, or the lack thereof when you’re glued to your screens, according to Coleman. “When you’re at the computer, you’re focusing, and research shows that your blinking frequency decreases. Under normal circumstances, we blink about 15 times a minute, but we blink half to one-third of that amount when using digital devices. That’s hard on your eyes.”
Instead of investing in unnecessary glasses, consider these six steps to alleviate digital eyestrain:
Apply the 20/20/20 Rule: Take a break every 20 minutes, focusing on something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Lubricate Your Eyes: Use artificial-tear eye drops to prevent dry eyes.
Increase the Font Size: Adjust the font size on your screens for comfortable reading.
Adjust the Contrast: Boost the contrast on your monitors to ease eye strain.
Reduce Glare: Use a matte screen filter to reduce glare.
Buy a Better Monitor: Consider a high-resolution monitor, especially if you’re using a small laptop screen.
Blue Light Glasses and Sleep
While blue light glasses may not convincingly alleviate eyestrain, some research suggests they might help with sleep. Blue light affects the body’s sleep-wake cycle or circadian rhythm, making us feel more awake during the day but potentially hindering sleep at night.
One review of studies in 2021 suggested that blue light-blocking glasses could help people with insomnia, though a 2023 Cochrane Library review found mixed results. The challenge lies in the lack of standardization in commercial blue light glasses, making it difficult to ascertain whether they effectively block specific wavelengths.
Instead of solely relying on blue light glasses, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends limiting screen time two to three hours before bedtime or using “dark” or “night” mode on devices to reduce blue light exposure in the evenings.
We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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