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Blue Light Can Impact Your Sleep. Can Blue-Light-Blocking Glasses Help?

Many claim blue-light-blocking glasses help relieve eye strain and migraines and even aid sleep, but does science back those claims? Here's what to know.

Sarah Mitroff Managing 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.
Expertise Tech, Health, Lifestyle
Nasha Addarich Martínez Managing Editor
Nasha is a Managing Editor for CNET, overseeing our sleep and wellness verticals. She is a nutrition, mental health, fitness and sleep science enthusiast. Her passion for mindful and holistic practices transcends her personal life and profoundly influences her editorial approach, as she weaves evidence-based insights with practical advice to inspire readers to lead healthier, more balanced lives. Throughout her career, she's covered various topics including financial services, technology, travel and wellness.
Expertise Sleep, mental health, personal care, fitness and nutrition. Credentials
  • Sleep Science Coach Certification from The Spencer Institute.
Sarah Mitroff
Nasha Addarich Martínez
5 min read
Angela Lang/CNET

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.

Once hard to find, there are now plenty of stylish options from companies like Felix Gray and Peepers. You can get blue light blocking lenses for your prescription glasses, too.

So do blue-light-blocking glasses actually make a difference for those of us who stare at a screen eight or more hours per day? The answer isn't as straightforward as yes or no.

Read more: Best Blue-Light-Blocking Glasses

Is staring at a screen for hours each day bad?

The short answer? Probably.

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.

By staring at screens all day, we're also exposed to blue light waves, which are said to cause a myriad of issues. There is conflicting evidence about how blue-light exposure affects your eyes, but doctors and researchers agree that it does affect your circadian rhythm. More on that below.


Blue-light-blocking glasses from the brand Felix Gray.

Angela Lang/CNET

What is blue light?

All visible light we humans see contains the entire spectrum of the rainbow, from red to violet. Within that spectrum are blue light waves, which are said to help us stay alert and upbeat.

Read more: Tired of Eye Strain? Here's How Optometrists Say to Beat It

How does blue light affect sleep?

Light impacts your circadian rhythm. In the morning, light signals to your body that it's time to wake up, which is why you tend to be more alert during the day. Blue light affects your circadian rhythm since it blocks the production of melatonin (sleepy hormone). At first glance, the screens on our electronic devices may not seem blue, but they do actually emit short blue wavelengths. If you're an avid nighttime social media scroller or an evening gamer, you're essentially telling your brain that it's time to stay awake instead of winding down for sleep.

Blue light does have its positive attributes. Since it makes you feel more alert, blue light therapy is used for those suffering from unexplained fatigue or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression. It may help those with memory loss and is believed to improve cognitive function. 

When the sun goes down, the lack of light signals our bodies to start producing melatonin, the hormone responsible for making us fall asleep.

Read more: Quit the Melatonin: 7 Natural Insomnia Remedies That Are Better

Before the advent of artificial light, the sun regulated our sleep schedules. Today, we're exposed to light all day and into the night. While exposure to any light waves after dark delays our body's 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 resetting our off-sync 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 those of us who cozy up to our tech after sunset, LEDs are used in countless smartphones, tablets and TV screens. Tech products that have an LCD screen, like laptops, iPads and older iPhones, still use LEDs to backlight their displays.

Tips to manage blue light before bed

These are some practical ways to reduce exposure to blue light before bed:

  • Wrap up work at least 3 hours before bed.
  • Turn off any overhead lights right after dinner to keep your room dim.
  • Put away any electronic devices like your phone or television 30 minutes before you go to bed.
  • Put your phone on do not disturb mode to minimize light disruptions.

Is blue light harmful?

Blue light has been linked to all sorts of issues, from causing digital eye strain to making us blind. There's a lot of conflicting evidence about exactly how harmful it really is.

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.


Peeper's blue-light-blocking glasses.

Angela Lang/CNET

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."

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 then have trouble falling asleep?

There is ample evidence that blue light affects when our bodies create melatonin, so if you use screens long after sundown, these glasses might help stop you from staying up later than you want.

If you deal with digital eye strain, there is an 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.

Read more: Best Places to Buy Replacement Prescription Lenses Online

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.