But, I had a problem: For my job, I needed to spend a minimum of eight hours a day staring at a computer screen. Plus, unfortunately, in my "down time" after work, I would often find myself staring at another, smaller screen: the crip rectangle of my iPhone 7, which would constantly beam more blue light into my face.
I often felt like my eyes were red and tired by the end of the day, and wouldn't feel the ache begin to lift until I finally turned off my devices. According to The Vision Council, 200 million Americans report symptoms of Digital Eye Strain (DES), eye discomfort which can be caused from looking at a screen for more than two hours at a time.
Blue light itself isn't a bad thing: it's everywhere, including in sunlight. Researchers have determined that blue wavelengths, at the high end of the light spectrum, right before UV, are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood. But until fairly recently, humans were mostly exposed to natural light during the day, and darkness at night. But now, we are constantly bathing in artifical light, most of it blue. Too much exposure to blue light, particularly at night, suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms, which can make it difficult to sleep.
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A study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, showed that when a group of young boys looked at their phones for a few hours before sleeping wore orange glasses, they felt “significantly more sleepy” than when they wore clear glasses. Another study study of 20 adults had similar findings.
In the wake of growing awareness about the problems of blue light, blue light blocking glasses have gained popularity as a way to subdue digital eye strain and avoid disrupted sleep cycle. In additon, many of the frames also have glare reduction to prevent digital eye strain from looking at screens. I decided to test a pair out and see for myself.
Here's what I learned from wearing blue light blocking glasses for a week:
Blue light glasses don't have to be ugly
The company I tried, Felix Gray, is a newer brand. Their glasses don't filter out all of blue light, just the higher end of the spectrum, so their lens isn't yellow. They also add an anti-glare coating on top to cut down on Digital Eye Strain.
Their glasses are also adorably chic, with options to add magnification if you need them for reading, or just as glass frames with no adjustment if you're just looking to block the blue light. I opted for "Nash" frames with a "Whiskey Tortoise" pattern, with blue light filter and no magnification. The experiment was on.
I usually only wear prescription (non light blocking) glasses when I'm driving. I found that when I had to wear my blue light glasses every time I was looking at a screen, it made me more aware of just how often I was looking at a screen. I found myself surprised by how often I pulled out my laptop after I got home from work, or just mindlessly scrolled through my phone.
As a result, I found myself being more intentional about putting the phone away, and actually sat on the porch and read more in the evenings. And even though my eyes were still working by looking at the pages of a book, giving them a rest from one more screen (the one I would typically be watching Netflix on) helped a ton, and I slept better afterwards.
Since the glasses had made me more aware of the problem of blue light, I tried remedying the issue further with small fixes. My iPhone is now set for "Night Shift" from 9:00 PM to 7:00 AM. To do this yourself on an iPhone, you can go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift, and set the time you usually start getting ready for bed.The Night Shift function shifts the colors of the phone's display to the warmer end of the color spectrum, so you're avoiding blue light that way. There are also apps to do this for other phones.
I also zeroed in on non-screen sources of artificial blue lights. I learned that while LEDs are also increasingly popular as room lights, they're not all the same: “warm white” bulbs, with less blue, tend to be a better choice than “cool white” for nighttime use. There are also multiple bulbs that that can change the intensity of a light's colors with an app, and there are reduced-blue LED bulbs for warmer lights in bedrooms.
Glasses like these are small miracles. My eyes felt more rested at the end of the day (probably from the reduced screen glare factor) and looked visibly less red and tired, and I wasn't taking in blue light at night. Plus I got tons of compliments on my new glasses.
I would recommend these to anyone concerned about their digital eye strain—though I would also recommend trying to cut down on on LED lighting at night, and to cut your nightly screen time as much as possible. You can also try the 20-20-20 rule at work and at home: When working on a screen, every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.