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From computers and smartphones to television and e-readers, our technological devices provide us with many benefits, for both work and pleasure. But use these devices too close to bedtime, and the benefits come at a cost.The intense blue light emitted by these devices disrupts our sleep-wake cycle, energizing your brain and inhibiting melatonin production (the hormone that initiates sleep).
If you’re working on your computer, watching TV, or checking Facebook right up until bed, and are unwilling—or unable—to change your schedule, blue-light blocking glasses can be your brain’s protection against strong blue light. Like the night filter on your phone, the lenses in these glasses block out blue wavelengths before your eyes perceive them. This keeps the blue light at bay, so it doesn’t interfere with your brain’s normal melatonin production.
Blue-light blocking glasses were developed to address our society’s always-on culture, and prevent it from affecting our ideal sleep-wake cycles. As a new technology, and one that’s not yet regulated by the FDA, you’ll need to wade through some marketing claims to find the most effective pair for you.
Eight Sleep specializes in sleep products equipped with the newest technology, and the company’s Blue Wave Glasses are no exception. While the glasses only come in one style, the modern, black frames can work with anyone’s look. They’re stylish and no one will know you’re wearing blue-light blocking glasses instead of regular ones.
The Blue Wave Glasses block a relatively large range of light, blocking 60% of light in the 380 to 500 nm range. The light-colored lens also means you can wear them all day if you choose. They’re a great pick if you’re looking for something you can wear during the day while you work on a computer and keep them on into the evening.
While these glasses cost a bit more than others, the design is backed by Eight Sleep’s Science Advisory Board, so you know you’re getting top quality. The glasses come with a carrying case and cleaning cloth.
The J+S Vision Blue Light Shield glasses line has something for everyone. Shoppers can pick from classic rectangular frames, round frames, or wayfarer frames—each available in black or tortoise shell. These frames are stylishly designed, and with a light-colored lens, they appear like a trendy pair of glasses instead of technical gear.
There are also two different lens options: a low color distortion (LCD) lens that minimizes the color distortion (a good choice for people with color-sensitive work, such as graphic designers), and a high definition (HD) lens that focuses on clarity and glare reduction (ideal for extended computer use or gaming). The J+S Vision glasses block out 90% of blue light in the 400-430 nm wavelengths.
The lenses themselves were durably constructed, with 7-layer anti-reflective coating and hydrophobic treatment. However, the J+S Vision glasses are more expensive, costing up to three times the price of the other lenses on our list.
The Eyekepper attempts to balance all needs. The glasses are available in up to 16 frame styles and lens color variations to suit different style preferences.
Shoppers can choose from transparent, orange, or amber tinted lenses. The orange tinted lens, which we’ve chosen for our list, is the BB98 model. It does the best job of blocking blue light, blocking 95% of light in the 395-500 nm wavelengths. However, Eyekepper acknowledges the BB98 causes serious color distortion.
As these are designed like traditional frames, Eyekepper made them available in both non-prescription and 14 prescription strength options, so people can switch out their regular reading glasses with these whenever they’re working. Depending on the lens and prescription strength chosen, the lenses range from $10 to $30.
The Blue Blocking Amber Glasses by Spectra479 are one of the most effective blue-light blocking glasses on the market, blocking 99.8% of blue light in the 280-510 nm wavelengths. That’s one of the widest ranges you’ll find with blue-light blocking glasses.
The Spectra479 glasses feature a wraparound style, preventing peripheral blue light from hitting your eyes. The dark amber lens is designed for nighttime wear only, so you won’t want to wear these during the day. However, what you lose in flexibility you earn back in effectiveness for blocking blue light when you most need it blocked—at night.
The Spectra479 Amber Glasses for Sleep are one of the more expensive blue-light blocking glasses, but if you’re especially sensitive to light and really want to ensure you can wind down before bed, the price may be worth it (and they’re still well below $50).
Gamma Ray’s Blue-Light Blocking Computer Glasses make things simple. There is one lens color, one frame color, one unisex size designed to fit most adult men and women, and no prescription strength available.
The black frames feature a lightweight style which looks good on a wider range of faces than some of the heavier frames in this list. The frames are TX-compatible so the lenses can be replaced by an optometrist with the correct prescription strength.
Gamma Ray has traditionally sold UV and blue-light blocking glasses for daytime computer use, but these are their first pair focused specifically on aiding sleep.
There’s a great deal of variability when it comes to blue-light blocking glasses. Because they’re a relatively new product, customers often have a number of questions about them. In our buying guide, we’ll outline the key features of blue-light blocking glasses and important shopping considerations. First, let’s look at the relationship between blue light and sleep.
In order to understand how blue light impacts sleep, it’s important to review the general relationship between light and sleep. Every person has a circadian rhythm, or internal clock, and one of its main functions is regulating when we’re alert and when we’re ready to sleep. Light plays a major role in regulating our circadian rhythms. When the sun is out, your retina tells your brain it’s time to be awake and alert. The opposite happens when it gets dark at night; your retina sends a message to your hypothalamus to produce melatonin, drop your body temperature and prepare for sleep.
Most electronic devices that have screens—including smartphones, tablets, televisions, computers and e-readers—emit blue light. Blue light is the shortest and brightest wavelength, and the brain senses it as sunlight. That makes it great for productivity during the day. The blue light we see while working on a computer or reading on a tablet keeps us awake and alert.
When we use devices with blue light in the evening, however, it can wreak havoc on our sleep. Our brains think it’s daytime and delay melatonin production. Numerous studies have demonstrated a link between blue light from devices and poor sleep quality. In fact, one study from Harvard found that exposure to blue light leads to twice the melatonin suppression as exposure to green light. It also shifts circadian rhythms by the same degree. And while many of us know that watching television right before bed can impact sleep, even reading a book on an e-reader can negatively impact sleep.
Blue light can impact how long it takes you to fall asleep, and subsequently how much sleep you ultimately get. What many don’t realize is that it can also interfere with the quality of your sleep. Too much exposure at night can lead to restless sleep and less time spent in the most refreshing stage of sleep known as deep sleep.
It’s worth noting that in addition to the negative impacts of blue light on sleep, devices are also stimulating, which impacts our ability to settle down for the night.
While the impacts of blue light on sleep are alarming when it comes to adults, the effects tend to be even worse in children and young adults. Children who sleep in a room with a TV report sleeping less and feeling tired, and playing video games before bed can overstimulate kids. But the increase in smartphone use has led to even more problems. Increasingly more young adults sleep with their smartphones either next to or in their beds. They’re exposed to blue light right up until they try to fall asleep, and even sometimes during the night. A recent study found that the number of U.S. teens who sleep fewer than seven hours a night increased by 22% between 2012 and 2015, which correlates to an increase in smartphone use. That’s cause for concern when you consider that school-age children need nine to ten hours of sleep through their teenage years.
The good news is, there are several steps you can take to minimize blue light exposure in the evening and improve your sleep:
Blue-light blocking glasses go by a variety of names, including video gaming glasses or computer reading glasses, but they all do the same thing—block out intense blue light. Here are the key design features to look out for as you shop for your pair.
Understanding how blue-light blocking glasses work, and how to use them safely, will help you determine what kind of pair you need. Review the questions below to learn more.
You may have noticed blue-light blocking glasses have different colored lenses, usually yellow, amber, or orange. These lenses reflect blue light away from your irises, blocking the light before your brain has the opportunity to perceive it as sunlight.
When you wear blue-light blocking glasses, particularly at night, you create an environment for your eyes that mimics the natural reduction in sunlight that occurs in the evening. As a result, your brain will begin melatonin production at the appropriate time, allowing you to fall asleep more easily.
Our brains are especially sensitive to the blue light digital devices emit. In fact, our brains interpret it as sunlight, which is why using these devices helps us feel more awake and alert.
While this is a benefit when we’re trying to work and be productive, it can be a problem when you use the devices into the evening—a time when your brain needs to wind down for sleep. The blue light keeps our brain from “turning off” and starting melatonin production, delaying sleepiness.
No matter your age, if you use blue light devices, especially at night, you can benefit from wearing blue-light blocking glasses.
Blue-light blocking glasses offer many benefits to their wearer.
First and foremost, they help facilitate normal melatonin production. One study compared participants who wore blue-light blocking glasses 3 hours before bedtime against those who didn’t. The ones who wore the glasses enjoyed deeper sleep and reported improvements in mood.
Blue light blocking glasses also minimize the eye strain we suffer from when we’ve stared at our computer screens for too long. The symptoms of eye strain are uncomfortable, and include headaches, dry eyes, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain.
Eye strain develops after prolonged use of electronic devices (defined as 2 hours or longer in one sitting). Unfortunately, 80% of adults report using electronic devices for at least that amount of time on a daily basis, with over two-thirds using multiple devices at the same time.
Prolonged or frequent exposure to blue light at night has also been linked to increased cancer risk, in particular among shift workers. This may be due to the disruption their circadian rhythms experience from working at night.
You can wear these types of glasses all day long, although you’ll want to switch out the particular lens you are using.
Lighter, yellow lenses are better for the daytime, and you can wear them whenever you are in front of your computer working indoors. When you go outside, take your glasses off so your brain can get a boost of natural sunlight. Receiving natural sunlight during the day helps reinforce your natural circadian rhythms. It helps your brain better detect the difference in light when the sun lowers in the evening.
For indoors electronic activity at night, darker red or amber lenses are better. Start wearing your glasses 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. The darker the lens, the more blue light it blocks out, which is why darker lenses are recommended for nighttime.
If you wear darker lenses during the day, your brain may be likely to overproduce melatonin or start production earlier than it should, just because the glasses are so effective at blocking out bright light, including the natural sunlight entering through your office windows. As a result, you’ll experience a disruption to your circadian cycle and feel tired earlier than you should.
As they can cause serious color distortion, avoid wearing blue-light blocking glasses when driving.
Limit your use of digital devices during the day whenever possible, and take breaks to avoid prolonged use. For instance, every 20 minutes, avert your eyes from the screen for 20 seconds and look at something 20 feet away.
At night, switch on the red-light filter app on any devices that include this functionality. Sleep experts recommend not using electronic devices within 1 hour of bedtime, to allow your brain to start winding down for sleep. If you can, follow their advice.
Finally, get plenty of sleep! Let your eyes rest by ensuring you get your 7+ hours of shuteye in nightly.