February 22, 2022 | 3-minute read (561 words)
Blue light emitted by digital screens, such as those seen on smartphones and laptops, can irritate users’ eyes and cause dry or watery eyes. As blue light has been found to disturb the circadian cycle, it can also affect people’s sleep routines.
With the rise of work-from-home amid the pandemic, glasses containing special lenses that purportedly filter or block out the blue light generated by digital screens have become increasingly popular.
As individuals spend more time online — working, learning or even buying meals — the demand for blue light blocking glasses has skyrocketed, despite the lack of clear proof that these glasses decrease eye strain or protect eyes from blue light's effects. Zenni, an optical manufacturer, sold more than 7 million frames in 2020, and this figure includes 2 million of its blue light blocking Blokz lenses.
According to 360ResearchReports, the worldwide market for blue light blocking glasses will rise at a compound yearly growth rate of around 7.6% over the following four years, reaching $28 million in 2024, up from $19 million in 2020.
It’s worth considering what research suggests as to whether blue light blocking glasses truly protect your eyes from digital screens.
What science has to say
"Blue light-blocking glasses do not improve symptoms of digital eye strain," according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The amount of light emitted by a digital screen has not been shown to cause any eye diseases. Further, a study by the National Library of Medicine found that computer screens emit no measurable UVA or UVB radiation, which are the most harmful part of light.
According to the Academy, while blue light affects the human body's circadian rhythm or natural waking and sleep cycle, the best way to minimize sleep disturbances is to stop using digital screens a few hours before bedtime. In the evening, employing night mode on electronic gadgets can also be helpful.
A separate study published in the Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics journal found "a paucity of good quality data to recommend utilizing BB glasses lenses for the general people to improve visual performance or sleep quality, ease eye tiredness or conserve macular health.”
And the College of Optometrists writes that "The use of blue-blocking spectacle lenses in the general population to improve visual performance, ease the symptoms of eye tiredness or visual discomfort, improve sleep quality or conserve macula health is not supported.”
On the other hand, a 2017 study indicates that "blue-light filtering spectacle lenses can partially filter high-energy short-wavelength light without substantially degrading visual performance and sleep quality. These lenses may serve as an additional option for protecting the retina from potential blue-light hazard."
Meanwhile, an article published in Applied Psychology finds that blue light blocking glasses can enhance sleep by creating a form of physiological darkness, and research published by Hindawi finds blue-light treatment has a good effect on sleep, mood and motor symptoms in individuals with Parkinson's disease.
To sum it up
This debate is not easily settled. Since blue-light-blocking glasses are a relatively new product, there isn't enough evidence yet to establish that they genuinely protect people’s eyes from digital screens. Scientists are continually researching the long-term effects of blue light on the eyes. In the meantime, the best thing to do if you have any eye discomfort is to see an ophthalmologist and ignore marketing for blue-light blocking glasses.