Whether you love or hate them (or love to hate them), digital devices are part of our everyday lives. And now that people are increasingly working from home, we probably spend the same amount of time on screens as we do off, if not more. While blue-light glasses have become a popular solution for dealing with tired eyes, there are some questions about whether they're actually effective — or worse, if they could inadvertently cause harm.
When you think of blue light, you probably only think of the glow coming from your screen, but there are other sources. The greatest source of blue light is the sun, and some exposure is essential for overall good health, Margaret Liu, MD, an ophthalmologist who runs her own practice, San Francisco Eye Institute, with the Pacific Vision Foundation, told POPSUGAR. Dr. Liu explained that blue light helps keep us awake and alert during the day, in part by inhibiting the production of melatonin, a hormone that's essential for sleep.
Of course, as the day goes on, that can become a problem. "Exposure to blue light at night also suppresses the secretion of melatonin," Jonah Berman, OD, FAAO, a medical advisor for LensDirect, told POPSUGAR. Because of this, looking at screens before bed could interfere with your sleep. There is some research to suggest that wearing blue-light glasses — which are designed to reduce the amount of blue light from digital devices — just before bed can help improve your zzz's.
Can Wearing Blue-Light Glasses During the Day Be Harmful?
The better question is probably whether they're doing you any good. "The benefit of wearing blue-light glasses is controversial, and there is limited evidence that they help improve symptoms of digital eye strain," Dr. Liu said. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has also said that special eyewear for computer use is not necessary. However, both Dr. Liu and Dr. Berman explained that wearing blue-light glasses during the day is not actually harmful to your eyes, so if you already own a pair, you don't need to worry that they're doing any damage.
That said, "there are more significant contributing factors to digital eye strain and difficulty sleeping than blue-light exposure, and there are other more effective ways to address these issues," Dr. Liu told POPSUGAR. Blue light itself has not been proven to be harmful or cause digital eye strain. Most eye strain is instead linked to how we use screens (or more accurately, how we overuse them).
Other Ways to Reduce Eye Strain
Blue-light glasses aside, there are other simple ways to keep your eyes healthy, even if you spend most of your days looking at screens. Here are a few.
- Take frequent breaks. Dr. Liu recommends the 20-20-20 rule to her patients: every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look 20 feet out into the distance. "We tend to blink less when we are concentrating during screen time, and taking frequent breaks allows your eyes to blink at their natural rate, giving your eyes a chance to rehydrate and relax," she explained.
- Lubricate your eyes. If you sit in front of a screen for a long period of time and you're experiencing dry eyes, have some eye drops or artificial tears nearby.
- Adjust your screen. Most of us spend numerous hours staring at a screen, big or small. "Sitting about 25 inches away from your screen and adjusting its height so you're looking slightly downward at it can help alleviate symptoms of digital eye strain," Dr. Liu said.
- Put down the devices at night. Because blue light at night can affect the quality of your sleep, Dr. Berman suggests you "avoid using digital screens immediately prior to bedtime to ensure you maintain adequate sleep."
- Stay healthy. "Eat a healthy diet, including adequate water intake, and practice an active rather than a sedentary lifestyle," Dr. Berman said.