Your favourite TV show could make you blind... OK, I might be getting a bit ahead of myself, but seriously, the blue light from our phones and devices is something we should all be aware of. That's why I've put together this guide to the effects of blue light, as well as the benefits of blue light blocking glasses.
Did you know that the average Australian actually spends around 10 hours a day looking at a digital screen?!1 I don't know about you, but between work and watching a movie at home with the kids, sometimes I spend even longer staring at screens... and it could be permanently damaging my eyes. We are all known to watch an episode or two of our favourite TV shows or check our favourite social media apps before bed, but all of these screens emit something called 'blue light' – and we're now becoming increasingly aware of the potential effects of all this daily exposure. It's why I wanted to find out more about what blue light actually is, and whether wearing blue light filtering glasses can help to protect our eyes.
What is blue light?
Blue light exists all around us, both naturally from the sun as well as artificially from our digital devices' screens – from our phones to our tablets, TVs, computers and even energy efficient lighting, we are actually exposed to a lot of this artificial blue light each and every day. To get sciencey, it's also known as high energy visible blue light (HEV), and has one of the shortest, highest energy wavelengths (between 380nm and 500nm).1
Why is blue light bad?
The number one issue with blue light is that it may trick our brains into thinking that it's daylight (blue light = blue sky). Blue wavelengths disrupt our bodies' circadian rhythm – our biological clocks which tell us to be awake during daylight hours and go to sleep in the darkness of night. Blue wavelengths are known to boost our attention, mood and reactions (which could be why our devices are automatically set to blue or cool light settings), meaning that nighttime exposure can wreak havoc on our sleep patterns. All colours of light may suppress the release of melatonin, our bodies' natural sleep hormone, but studies have found blue light in particular to have much stronger effects than other colours, such as green – one study found that blue light suppressed melatonin for double the amount of time of green light, and also changed circadian rhythms by twice as much.2
Since blue light exposure tends to go hand in hand with technology use, it can also play a role in digital eye strain. Signs can include dry or itchy eyes, loss of focus, headaches, fatigue and even neck pain, and may be a result of hours spent in front of screens both at work and home.1
Some studies have even found that prolonged blue light exposure may lead to macular degeneration – incurable damage to our vision which may speed up blindness. The reason for this is attributed to the shorter wavelength and increased energy of blue light (as compared to other light colours) – prolonged and unprotected exposure may gradually cause this damage to our eyes, as the human eye's cornea and lens does not have the ability to block or reflect it.3
There are also growing concerns surrounding kids' exposure to blue light – with more devices available to children than ever before, they are exposed to blue light screens from very young ages. According to Baxter Blue, since they are still developing, children's eyes may not provide the same level of protection as adults' do, meaning the potential risk for blue light to cause sleep problems (which can lead to a range of issues) and long-term eye damage is even greater.
Blue light blocking glasses
Aside from making sure your nighttime lighting is warm and switching your devices into night mode, which adjusts the light emitted by our devices from cool to warm (that means from blue to yellow), blue light blocking glasses are one of the easiest and best ways to filter blue light. Blue light glasses are ideal for anyone who spends a lot of time looking at computers or phones, whether it be for work or at home. To help stop digital eye strain, we should also make sure that we take breaks from screens, reduce overhead lighting to stop glare, sit at arm's distance from our screens, and ensure they are positioned at a comfortable eye level.1
How do blue light glasses work?
The key to blocking out blue light is in the lenses of blue light glasses – most pairs appear clear to look at, but are actually equipped with special lens tint technology which filters out the highest energy and shortest wavelength blue violet light from our devices and lighting, stopping it right in its tracks before it hits our eyes. Nighttime is when we need blue light glasses most, but they can actually be worn both day and night – whenever you're in front of a screen.
Best blue light glasses
By far the most stylish blue light glasses I have found are the Baxter Blue glasses! Available in both adults and kids frame sizes, they come in a range of frame colours and shapes to suit our own personal style. Baxter Blue glasses are fitted with special Blue+ lenses, which have a very subtle tint but appear clear.
To get technical, Baxter Blue lenses actually filter out 50% of the blue violet light in the 400nm-440nm range – this is the harmful blue light emitted from our digital devices, not the 'good blue light' which exists naturally. Their lenses are also extra special thanks to the premium anti-reflective coating, which helps to reduce glare and balance contrast when we look at our screens, as well as anti-scratch technology and 100% UV protection for when we're out and about. This same technology is fitted in the Baxter Blue kids range – designed for children 7-13 years of age to help protect their eyes from potential long-term damage.
What I love about Baxter Blue the most, though, is the fact that they have actually partnered with RestoringVision to help give the gift of vision to people all around the world who do not have access to glasses. For every pair of Baxter Blue glasses purchased, another pair of reading glasses is provided to a person in need.
Sources: 1 Baxter Blue, 2 Harvard Health, 3 The Sydney Morning Herald.