If your eyes have ever felt heavy or irritated after a day spent at your desk in front of your computer, or following a meaningless scroll on Instagram or Tik Tok, you're certainly not alone. With the increase in screen time and subsequent blue light exposure, comes an unfolding string of consequences to our health and eyesight. While we're all acutely aware of the effects blue light has on our skin and our eyesight, unfortunately for many of us, these impacts are impossible to escape. In an effort to minimise these effects, we're looking to the latest wellness trend; blue light glasses – to understand what they are and whether we need them.
What is blue light?
Blue light is a short-wave light form that is visible to the human eye. While blue light is commonly referenced in relation to technology, the light form is actually all around us. The main source of blue light is the sun, however, it's the man-made, artificial form, found in fluorescent and LED lighting, which is the most harmful.
Because the human eye is unable to filter blue light the same way the cornea and lens block UV rays from reaching the retina, constant and long-term exposure to the display screens of computers, electronic notebooks, smartphones and other digital devices can contribute greatly to digital eye strain. Internationally, up to 90% of digital screen users have reported symptoms that are associated with digital eye strain.
Studies have shown that a healthy exposure to natural blue light can be beneficial, proven to boosts alertness, help with memory and cognitive function and elevate your mood. However, there is also information to show that too much artificial blue light exposure late at night can disrupt the body's circadian rhythm – having a direct impact on sleep quality and increasing daytime fatigue.
What are blue light glasses?
Blue Light Glasses have been manufactured in an effort to counteract the damaging effects of blue light on the eyes. The proposed benefits include reduced headaches, eye strain, and improved melatonin secretion to reduce symptoms from blue light exposure.
The lenses used in blue light glasses are specifically crafted to block out or filter the light form, claiming to to protect your eyes from glare and damage to the retina.
How do you know if you need blue light glasses?
Unfortunately, there is not enough research to confirm the successfulness of blue light glasses. While trialing the wellness trend will certainly do no harm, there are several other precautions you can take to help reduce the impacts of screen fatigue before you invest. American ophthalmologist, Rishi Singh, MD, says that much of the discomfort people experience from digital screens falls under a term called computer vision syndrome. So, while you may be experiencing symptoms linked to blue light exposure, it might not be directly linked to the light form itself.
“When we stare at a digital screen or device for too long, we’re not blinking very often, which causes the cornea to become dry and irritated,” shared Dr. Singh in an interview with Health Essentials. “When we focus our eyes on something close up, like a screen or even a book, our eyes are strained and contracted, which can cause eye discomfort. But if you look ahead to a distant object, our eyes relax.”
Some alternative practices suggested by Dr. Singh that you can undertake to create better screen habits include stepping away from your desk or screen every 20 minutes, sitting an arms length away from your screen to reduce eye strain, implementing a 'screen-down before bed' approach and using medically recommend eye drops throughout the day.