It’s no secret that the blue light emitting from our favorite digital devices harms our eyes and well-being. We always encourage people to protect their eyes the best they can from digital devices. However, sometimes we do things that we think are protecting our eyes but, in reality, are doing the opposite.
There are a lot of products available on the market to protect our eyes from blue light and other harmful lights, but not all of them work. In fact, experts agree that blue light blocking glasses may cause more harm than good. Close research has shown that these glasses don't actually offer the protection they claim.
Blue Light and Screens
We live in a digital age where it’s commonplace to see toddlers fiddling with their parent’s tablets and smartphones at restaurants or airports. Carrying around one tablet sure beats carrying around an entire backpack filled with books and toys.
So we give our kids screens to play with and we even find ourselves playing games, checking emails, browsing the internet and working with screens. Blue light is what makes our screens bright and what make LED lights so powerful.
Blue light is found in natural light sources as well but that doesn’t mean that it’s safe. UV rays emit from the sun and cause damage to the body if not repelled. Though blue light will not cause the same, sometimes life-threatening damage as UV rays do, the light can harm our overall well-being when the eyes are overexposed to it.
Every screen emits blue light. It’s everywhere from your phone, to computer, to your television. If you’re someone who uses a computer all day at work and then comes home to crash on the couch in front of the television then your eyes never get a break from the blue light.
The blue light coming from our screens is only a fraction of the amount that the sun emits. We don’t spend all day staring at the sun, that would be crazy. Just as it is crazy to spend all day staring at a screen.
I say, if you can use your screen as a flashlight, you shouldn’t be staring right at it for hours on end.
As more and more people become aware of the dangers of blue light, the more people want to protect themselves. Our eyes don’t have the ability to fully block out blue light. However, there is good news: blue light does not cause any permanent damage to the eye.
Instead, it makes the eye fatigued, which in turn sets off a chain reaction throughout the body.
The most common condition associated with overexposure to blue light is digital eye strain. Digital eye strain can cause dry eyes, eye pain, headaches, neck pain and eye fatigue. This condition mostly affects office workers and those whose job requires long hours in front of a screen.
Too much screen use can also affect your sleep. If you’re someone who is constantly using their smartphone or tablet right before going to bed, the blue light will affect the hormone called melatonin. This hormone is crucial for getting a good night’s rest. It induces sleep and helps you to stay asleep so that you can wake up refreshed.
Blue light can affect the production of melatonin by fooling the body into thinking that it is still light out. Our bodies have been conditioned over centuries to sleep at night. So, when the brain sees the blue light, it thinks that it’s still day time. This messes with your biological clock and it can take weeks to recover.
Blue light has also been linked to increasing our risk of developing macular degeneration early and contributing to a temporary blindness.
Blue Light Blocking Glasses: The Truth
Because the eye can’t block all blue light, companies have pounced on the opportunity to sell anything that will help people fight blue light. However, some of the products on the market don’t work like they’re supposed to. This applies mainly to blue light blocking glasses.
Basically, these glasses and the companies selling them claim that they’ll help you sleep better, reduce digital eye strain and protect the eye from further damage. In theory, this checks out, but put it into practice and it fails all the tests.
The main reason why these glasses don’t protect our eyes is because companies rely on animal tests rather than human tests. This means that the animal’s eyes are responding positively to the glasses blocking the blue light.
Humans and animals have very different eyes when it comes to blocking light. In fact, animals are much more sensitive to light that we are. So when a light is flashed into their eyes without protection, it will inevitably cause damage. If the same light were shined into a human’s eye, they’d be much less sensitive and affected by it.
This method of testing (shining light directly into the eyes) is also something of a problem. It isn’t an accurate representation of how screens work. The lights being used in the tests are far more powerful than what we get from a screen or even the sun.
It seems that the science behind this product is more about selling fear than it is about science. If you’re experiencing any condition related to screen use, skip on these glasses and talk to your doctor instead.
Block Blue Light for Real
If you’re looking for a real solution to the excessive blue light used in our digital devices, the simplest solution is to install a filter on your device. Filters won’t block out blue light completely, but they’ll mimic a more natural light that’ll cause less strain on your eyes.
You can find free filters for almost every operating system from PC to iOS. The filters will soften the light on your device without dimming the brightness. This will give your device an orange hue rather than a harsh bright, white light.
Another thing you can do that will do wonders for your eyes is to take a break from your screens. Even with the filter, you can still develop digital eye strain if you don’t give your eyes a chance to defocus.
The best way to do this is with the 10-10-10 rule. Every 10 minutes look at something 10 feet away for 10 seconds. It’s that simple!
Blue light is often brushed aside because it doesn’t directly harm the eye, but it does affect our long-term health. Protecting your eyes from harmful light is important, but it’s also important to know which methods work and which ones are scams.
This post originally appeared on Rebuild Your Vision.