Do Blue Light Glasses Work?

If you stare at a screen all day, you may have considered blue light glasses to ease eye strain and ultimately get a better night's sleep. But are they worth the investment?

Blue-light-blocking glasses are supposed to combat the effects of short-wavelength light emitting from our smartphones, computer screens and LED lights: namely, eye strain leading to poor sleep and possibly cataracts and macular degeneration. They can range from under $15 all the way up to several hundred dollars. But do blue light glasses work?

Dr. Elizabeth Esparaz, an ophthalmologist and lifestyle medicine specialist based in Cleveland, Ohio, says the science that manufacturers share to promote these glasses can be confusing. For starters, blue light isn’t just about tech devices, and it’s not always bad.

“The sun emits a much higher intensity of blue light than human-made devices, of course, and it’s actually beneficial,” says Dr. Esparaz. It helps our mood, alertness and sleep-wake cycle. However, blue light at night is not a good thing: It suppresses the release of melatonin. “Melatonin helps regulate our circadian rhythms and makes us sleepy,” says Dr. Esparaz.

So, in theory, blue-light-blocking glasses should help people who watch movies in bed or read from a tablet at night to avoid sleeplessness. Indeed, a 2021 review from the University of Oklahoma that looked at 24 previous studies found people affected by sleep disorders, jet lag and shift work fell asleep faster after using these glasses.

As for eye strain, an Australian study of 120 people in 2021 showed that those wearing the glasses did not experience less eye strain than those using clear glasses. And a 2018 review study, also by Australian researchers, concluded that there was insufficient evidence to show that they prevent macular degeneration.

“These glasses aren’t going to be harmful,” says Dr. Esparaz, so people who find them effective should keep using them. But, she adds, a lack of standardization in the industry means there’s no way to know if one pair is better than another.

You can always activate the blue-light-filtering function on your devices and limit screen time before bed. To help combat eye strain, Dr. Esparaz suggests taking breaks and using lubricating eye drops.

Now that you know how blue light glasses work, find out why you should always read before bed.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada