Are blue light glasses a scam?

revaty Blue Light Glasses“revaty Blue Light Glasses” by TheBetterDay is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

I don’t know about the rest of you, but the mid-semester break was the busiest I have been all year. With so many assignments with fast-approaching due dates, I was on the computer from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed. As a consequence, I have had a consistent headache for the past fortnight.

After some self-indulgent complaining to my housemate, she suggested that I try blue light glasses. I jumped on the opportunity. Yes! I’ve always wanted an excuse to wear glasses, but biology has so far let me down by giving me good vision.

Being the curious person I am, I decided to look into it a little first. So, the first place I went was to the virtual try-on feature of the Specsavers website. My suspicions were confirmed – I looked good.

What is blue light?

Light is energy, and this energy can be measured in wavelengths. Our brains interpret colour dependent on the energy level of the wavelength. Longer wavelengths (the red end of the spectrum) are made of less energy, and shorter wavelengths are higher energy (the blue end of the spectrum).

Fulvio314, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Our circadian cycle, which is our natural body clock, is highly dependent on light. Light affects our melatonin levels, which is a hormone that controls our sleep cycle. Historically, our sleep cycle would be solely influenced by the sun setting and the sun rising.

As technology such as fluorescent lights, computers, smartphones, and LED TVs have become increasingly frequent parts of our lives, so has the amount of light we absorb after sunset, which might upset our circadian cycle. In addition, modern screens emit blue light, which is the wavelength thought to have the biggest effect on our melatonin levels.

What do blue light glasses claim to do?

Well, it’s the marketers of blue light glasses making claims. The glasses themselves are innocent.

Blue light glasses filter out the blue light that we are absorbing from screens. One claim is that by wearing these glasses, our sleep will be improved. Evidence on this is mixed, but it seems the most logical of all the claims.

Negative effects of this should also be considered, though.  Some experts are concerned about filtering out too much blue light as blue light keeps us awake and alert, which is a good thing during the day.

Another common claim of blue light glasses is that they reduce eye strain. This is less likely. A 2020 review of the scientific literature concluded that there was no improvement in eye fatigue syndromes between those who wore blue light glasses and those who didn’t.

Conclusion?

It is likely that the cause of our dry eyes and headache is less to do with blue light and more to do with the limited amount of blinking we do when staring at a screen. It could also be because our eyes are contracting and under constant strain when we are reading something close to us.

Unfortunately, the cure for my headaches is not a snazzy pair of glasses. Instead, it’s just being responsible and taking regular breaks away from screens. Boring.


3 Responses to “Are blue light glasses a scam?”

  1. Nyesa says:

    Thanks for an interesting read Cassie! I myself have invested in blue light glasses from hearing the benefits from social media, it was fascinating to read about the actual effects of blue light and why headaches/eye strain occurs 🙂

  2. Syarafina Sentausa says:

    Hi Cassie, I’m sure most of us can relate with the headaches from seeing too much screen during the pandemic. We even socialise through our screens now! I honestly would try whatever to protect my eyes, including wearing blue light glasses even though the science behind it is still mixed 😀

  3. Elizabeth Punshon says:

    Wow. I have actually never heard of blue light glasses before but if this provides a solution to my sleep problems I am all in. Thanks for the enlightening read!