With the increase of school and work from home, a consequence has been children and adults spending more time at home in front of screens. While much emphasis is put on staying healthy physically and mentally with more time at home, eye health is also becoming a growing concern.
Screens emit blue light rays which may be harmful to eye health. With more of our time spent behind screens now, it is time to think about our eyes and how to protect them.
What Is Blue Light?
Whenever we are exposed to any light, whether from the sun or a screen, there is a variety of visible and invisible rays. These rays together give sunlight a white appearance.
Computer screens, televisions, and smartphones have a high emission of artificial blue light rays. Therefore, the more we look at these screens, the more our eyes are exposed to these higher levels of blue light waves. The potential problem is the eye does not block these rays very well from reaching the retina at the back of the eye.
Blue Light and Sleep Health
A major concern with exposure to blue light is how blue light affects sleep. Artificial light from screens can interfere with the body’s natural sleep and wake cycles known as circadian rhythm.
Blue light promotes alertness. Therefore, increased exposure to blue light, especially at night, can make it harder to fall asleep.
Tips for limiting blue light interfering with sleep health include:
- Avoiding looking at screens 2 to 3 hours before bedtime
- Using “night mode” to dim down the digital screen
- Getting outside in natural light during the day
What Are Blue Light Glasses?
Blue light glasses are designed to block the blue rays emitted from screens. Some companies and websites claim wearing these glasses may help protect the eyes from damage.
However, eye experts suggest there is little evidence to show blue light glasses provide any true eye protection. Instead, taking breaks from screens may be most beneficial for protecting the eyes from damage.
Are Blue Light Glasses Actually Beneficial for Your Eyes?
The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests eliminating eye strain from looking at screens, not necessarily blocking the blue light alone, maybe best to focus on for eye health.
While wearing blue light glasses is not known to be harmful, there is no evidence to date to suggest they protect eyes from damage associated with screen time. Cleveland Clinic suggests eye issues caused by digital device screen exposure are not caused by blue light.
Blue Light Glasses and Sleep
Blue light glasses may have a positive effect on sleep if you wear them at night while looking at screens. A small 2017 study had subjects wear blue-blocking glasses 2-3 hours before bed for 2 weeks.
Researchers were able to measure melatonin levels and sleep quality. They found wearing blue light glasses before bedtime increased sleep quality and melatonin levels which suggest blue light glasses may be beneficial for sleep.
Digital Eye Strain
What may be more of a concern than the blue light alone from screens is the strain on eyes from looking at screens for long periods of time. A general term for eye problems associated with looking at screens is called computer vision syndrome (CVS) or referred to as digital eye strain.
While looking at screens, eyes are constantly moving around and focusing on different areas of a screen. This along with fighting the glare from screens can put excess stress on the eyes. Another problem with looking at screens is blinking slows which causes irritated and dry eyes.
How to Protect Eyes from Screen Time
The best ways to protect eyes from prolonged screen time are listed below. Experts suggest implementing these guidelines whether you wear blue light glasses or not:
- Stick to the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes you look at a screen, look up for 20 seconds at something 20 feet away (or more). Eyes are able to relax when looking at things further away, so this will give your eyes a break while looking at screens.
- Sit away from your computer screen. Experts suggest sitting about an arm’s length away from screens, or about 25 inches from your face. Sitting too close to your screen (or putting your phone close to your face) puts more strain on the eyes. Looking at a screen further away can limit eye strain.
- Use eye drops. When we blink, we lubricate the eyes. When looking at screens, blinking is slowed and, therefore, eyes can get dried out. Using eye drops may help if you notice your eyes are dried out from looking at screens.
Blue light rays are all around us, even from the sun. However, when we look at screens, we are exposed to a higher than average level of blue rays. There is concern this may cause eye damage because eyes do a poor job of filtering out blue light.
Blue light is known to interfere with sleep quality. Therefore, wearing blue light glasses, especially before bed, may help with this.
However, there is not much evidence to suggest the blue light glasses will limit symptoms of digital eye strain. And, overall, more research is needed to further understanding blue light glasses and eye health.
Instead of relying on blue light-blocking lenses, focus on protecting eyes from screen time. Look away every 20 minutes, keep, screens further away from the face, and use eye drops as needed.
Are Computer Glasses Worth It? American Academy of Ophthalmology. Published October 18, 2018. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/are-computer-glasses-worth-it.
Do Blue Light Blocking Glasses Actually Work? Cleveland Clinic. Published March 18, 2020. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/do-blue-light-blocking-glasses-actually-work/.