The truth behind the trend: blue light glasses

March 19, 2021

Seven hours of online classes a day, plus an extra few hours for homework, and of course the obligatory video game or Netflix session to rewind after a long day of school. Right now we’re all spending most of our time on screens—so it’s no wonder many of us are experiencing headaches and eyestrain. 

Enter blue-light-blocking glasses, more commonly known as blue light glasses. These glasses are all over social media, praised by YouTubers and Tiktokers alike. They’re hailed as the cure to screen-induced headaches, insomnia, and eyestrain. But are they actually as effective as advertised?

The “Science”

At first glance, blue light glasses seem like the panacea for our online school-related problems. As one student put it, “why do I not have these?” The anecdotal evidence is there; a simple search in Google for blue light glasses will pull up dozens of glowing reviews claiming they helped users sleep and overall made their lives much better.

The glasses work by having lenses filter out the blue light that emits from phone and computer screens. Blue light isn’t necessarily bad during the day—it can help wake us up and boost productivity—but when viewed at night, it can hurt circadian rhythms, which regulate our sleep schedules.

So if blue light isn’t harmful and is in fact probably beneficial during the day, should you wear blue light glasses all the time? The answer is you shouldn’t (unless you like the glasses look, which I can completely understand). Those problems discussed before—eyestrain, headaches, dry eyes—aren’t due to blue light at all, but rather something called computer vision syndrome (aka digital eye strain), which is caused by your eyes constantly moving around the computer screen full of glare and contrast.

Sure, blue light glasses could be helpful before bed, but even that science isn’t really there yet.

So then what?

If you’re looking for blue light glasses to fix your headaches, you’re probably just wasting your money. Luckily, there are some things you can do to help relieve the computer vision syndrome that’ll cost you $0. Ophthalmologists recommend the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds. Make sure you’re at least an arm’s length away from your computer and use eye drops if your eyes are getting too dry from staring at the computer screen.

At night, if you want blue light glasses, go ahead, but maybe splurge a little and go for ones that are proven to block blue light, not just the $5 pair from Amazon. There are different levels of blue light blocking, so those cheap ones that don’t block much light are pretty much a waste of money. Or, alternatively, just turn off your screens an hour before bed. If that’s too much of a struggle, your computer and phone likely have a night mode that decreases the amount of blue light emitted; you can even schedule this to kick in at a certain time each night.

Taking the time to do these things will make your eyes thank you—and maybe make online school a little more bearable.  

Sources: Harvard Health, Cleveland Clinic

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