What Are Blue Light Glasses?

A woman with curly hair is wearing a black turtleneck and glasses and is looking at her mobile phone while working on a laptop computer.

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If you spend a lot time looking at a computer or phone screen, you may be wondering if you need to do something to block the blue light these devices emit—possibly by wearing blue light glasses.

Designed to block or filter the blue light generated by digital devices, blue light glasses are marketed to prevent eye strain and insomnia extensive use of tablets, computers, and phones may cause.

While their effectiveness in preventing eye strain might be limited, these glasses can be useful in blocking the blue light that interferes with your sleep cycle. Blue light glasses may also be helpful for those with mood disorders.

What Is Blue Light?

Blue light is high-energy light that is part of the visible light spectrum. Televisions, computers, smartphones, tablets, LED lights, and fluorescent lights emit blue light. However, the biggest source of blue light is the sun which is 100,000 times brighter than your computer screen on a sunny day.

When you are exposed to blue light from the sun or your screen, the light boosts your mood and your alertness. However, too much blue light can disrupt your body's natural sleep cycle—or circadian rhythm—making it difficult for you to fall asleep or stay asleep.

The evidence is mixed on whether blue light—either from the sun or from your screen—can damage your retina. Blue light is thought to cause irritation or sensitivity to the eyes. Some research also shows excessive exposure to blue light can cause damage to the eyes, potentially leading to conditions like dry eye disease. However, other research has shown blue light to have no significant effect on eye health.

What Are Blue Light Glasses Supposed to Do?

Blue light glasses are typically non-prescription glasses that have a coating or tint designed to filter or block the blue light coming from digital devices like a computer or phone. Some people may choose to wear them when working on the computer for long periods or when using technology before bed to avoid overexposure to blue light.

Researchers have studied blue light glasses for their ability to:

  • Reduce insomnia, or difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Treat the symptoms of mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder
  • Ease eye strain

Are Blue Light Glasses Effective?

There are claims that blue light glasses have several health benefits, but the evidence on their effectiveness is mixed.

May Help Prevent Insomnia

Since blue light exposure can disrupt your natural sleep cycle, blue light glasses have been thought to help prevent insomnia. One review of past studies found significant evidence that wearing blue light glasses was a successful tool for reducing insomnia. The researchers noted these glasses may be particularly useful in helping people with sleep disorders, jet lag, or shift-work schedules get better sleep.

May Improve Mood Disorders

Blue light glasses have been studied for their ability to help regulate mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.

This benefit may be due in part to blue light glasses' ability to help protect your body's natural sleep cycle. Sleep disturbances are a symptom of many mood disorders, so blue light glasses may be able to help by relieving this symptom. However, the evidence is mixed.

In a review of 29 past studies, the researchers noted that only two studies in the review found using blue light glasses reduced manic symptoms in those with bipolar disorder. They also noted that the studies on using blue light glasses for major depression and postpartum depression had mixed results.

More research is needed on whether blue light glasses can help treat mood disorders.

May Reduce Eye Strain

While digital devices like computers, phones, and tablets have become an integral part of everyday life, viewing these screens for several hours per day may have an impact your health.

If you spend more than two hours looking at a screen continuously, you may experience digital eye strain. Symptoms can include eyes that feel dry, itchy, or watery, as well as blurred vision. You may also experience a stiff neck, headache, and general tiredness.

One small study found that people who wore blue light glasses for two hours doing computer-related tasks experienced less eyestrain, eye itching, and eye pain compared to those who did not wear the glasses. However, more studies with larger groups of people are needed to confirm these results.

In another study, researchers had participants wear either blue light glasses or clear glasses while doing computer tasks for two hours. At the end of the study, they did not find any difference between the two groups and the level of eye strain they experienced.

Manufacturers often market blue light glasses as being able to prevent eye strain or long-term eye damage. However, there is not yet enough research to suggest this is true, or that blue light would cause these issues on its own.

What Else Can You Do To Ease Eye Strain?

Even though eye strain prevention is supposed to be one of the main benefits of wearing blue light glasses, research is mixed at the product's effectiveness on the problem. If you find that blue light glasses don't help with your eye strain or want to try other methods first, here are some ways you can minimize eye strain.

  • Take frequent breaks: Try using the 20-20-20 rule when using your devices. Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen towards an object that is 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This gives your eyes a chance to reset.
  • Try blinking more often: You tend to tend to blink less when using digital devices, which can make your eyes dry. If you cannot remember to blink, you also can try artificial tears to ease your dry eye symptoms.
  • Reduce brightness: When using your device, try using a dimmer setting or even using night mode in the evening to reduce the amount of blue light that is being emitted.
  • Increase your distance: Try to sit at least 20 inches or an arm's length away from your screen. Also, try adjusting the height so that you are looking slightly down at the screen.
  • Reduce glare: If you have natural light reflecting off of your screen or if your screen is too bright, this glare can cause headaches or eye strain. Try to minimize the glare on your screen by closing blinds, moving your computer, or getting a matte screen filter.
  • Adjust lighting: Try to avoid bright lights and overly lit rooms. If you can, adjust the room lighting to a dimmer level.
  • Limit your screen time: While screens have become a necessity for many, try to limit their use—particularly before bed. Consider reading a book or magazine rather than reading from a screen to prevent blue light from interfering with your sleep. You can also set screen time trackers on your devices to control excessive screen time.

If you notice that your eyes frequently bother you or that your vision appears to have changed, it is important to discuss this with a healthcare provider. They can evaluate your eyes and determine what is causing your symptoms. They also can make additional recommendations on how to find comfort from your eye strain.

A Quick Review

Blue light glasses are made with special coatings or tints designed to block or filter blue light emitted from digital screens like your smartphone or computer. While the evidence is mixed on whether they actually prevent eye strain, blue light glasses can be useful in preventing insomnia since overexposure to blue light can disrupt your sleep cycle.

If you are concerned about eye strain from staring at your digital devices, you can reduce eye fatigue by taking frequent breaks, limiting your screen time, and taking steps to reduce dry eyes. Talk to a healthcare provider like an eye doctor (optometrist) for additional tips on how to reduce eye strain.

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11 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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