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Do Blue Light Blocking Glasses Really Work? What Science Reveals
Many claim blue light blocking glasses help relieve eye strain and migraines, but does science back those claims? Here's what to know.
Sarah MitroffManaging Editor
Sarah Mitroff is a Managing Editor for CNET, overseeing our health, fitness and wellness section. Throughout her career, she's written about mobile tech, consumer tech, business and startups for Wired, MacWorld, PCWorld, and VentureBeat.
Remote employees spend an average of 13 hours a day (!) in front of a computer screen. Considering that we sleep for eight hours, that leaves us with 16 waking hours a day, meaning that 81% of the time we are awake, we're glued to a screen.
All of that screen time seems to come with various ill effects on our bodies and minds, such as eye strain, headaches and insomnia. To combat those problems, you can pick up a pair of computer glasses -- also called blue light blocking glasses -- which promise everything from eliminating eye strain to helping you sleep better.
Doctors and researchers are largely focused on two issues that arise from our ever-growing screen time: digital eye strain and blue light exposure.
According to the American Optometric Association, digital eye strain is "a group of eye- and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use." Those issues range from blurry vision and dry eyes, to headaches and neck pain.
Before the advent of artificial light, the sun regulated our sleep schedules. But today, we're exposed to light all day and into the night. While exposure to any light waves after dark delays our bodies' production of melatonin, blue light waves can be especially problematic because they keep us alert.
On the other hand, blue light can help us overcome sleep issues by disrupting our usual circadian rhythm.
So, what does my phone or computer screen have to do with this?
Compared to fluorescent and incandescent bulbs, LEDs can give off a significant amount of blue light.
Unfortunately for all of us who cozy up to our tech after sunset, LEDs are used in countless smartphone, tablet and TV screens. Tech products that have a LCD screen, like laptops, iPads and older iPhones, still use LEDs to backlight their displays.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology says that there's no evidence that the blue light specifically given off by screens will cause eye damage, as we are exposed to blue light all day from the sun.
Talking to CNET, Dr. Raj Maturi, a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, explained, "During the day, you get 10 times as much blue light from the sun as you do from your computer screen. Our bodies have evolved to deal with this light."
However, research compiled by the AOA indicates that prolonged exposure to blue light (such as sitting in front of a computer all day) might cause damage to your retina -- the innermost layer of your eye that sends signals to your brain to process what you are seeing.
Prevent Blindness, a nonprofit dedicated to mitigating vision loss, also says that early research suggests that blue light can contribute to eye strain.
What are blue light blocking glasses?
Blue light blocking glasses have filters in their lenses that block or absorb blue light, and in some cases UV light, from getting through. That means if you use these glasses when looking at a screen, especially after dark, they can help reduce exposure to blue light waves that can keep you awake.
Many blue light blocking glasses you can buy also claim to help reduce eye strain.
Most are meant to be worn during the day while working in front of a computer, and at night to prevent the blue light from screens from keeping us awake.
Should I get blue light blocking glasses?
It depends -- do you want or need to look at your phone after dark, and having trouble falling asleep?
If you deal with digital eye strain, however, there is a easy exercise you should try before you invest in new glasses. Use the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
The idea is that this helps break your focus from your screen, allowing your eye muscles to relax and stave off eye strain.
As for me, I'm writing this article wearing a pair of blue light blocking glasses that I've used off and on for the last few months. While I'm not 100% certain that they are helping my eyes, I do notice my eyes feel less tired at the end of the day.
Could it be a placebo? Sure. But I'll keep wearing them to find out.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.