Jun 11, 2023

Blue light

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Blue light eyewear enthusiasts might be seeing red after this.

Glasses that claim to shield your eyes from screens’ blue light and supposedly help you get better shut-eye may not provide much benefit at all — other than elevating your accessories.

A new study, published Friday in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, found that blue light glasses may not provide relief or protection from computer-induced eye strain nor improve sleep.

Experts have long claimed that blue light emitted from tablets, smartphones, televisions and computer screens could be damaging to the skin and eyes, potentially resulting in wrinkles, headaches, dry eyes and poor sleep.

American adults spend hours upon hours staring at screens each day — whether for work or pleasure — and blue light-filtering specs promise protection and relief from the screens’ rays.

But the recent assessment of blue light-filtering glasses has questioned their effectiveness.

“Over the past few years, there has been substantial debate about whether blue-light filtering spectacle lenses have merit in ophthalmic practice,” study author and associate professor Laura Downie said in a statement.

“Research has shown that these lenses are frequently prescribed to patients in many parts of the world, and a range of marketing claims exist about their potential benefits, including that they may reduce eye strain associated with digital device use, improve sleep quality and protect the retina from light-induced damage.”

In collaboration with City, University of London and Monash University, researchers from the University of Melbourne reviewed 17 randomized controlled trials of blue light glasses comprised of five to 156 participants in each.

The team analyzed the individual studies of the glasses for visual performance, retina protection and sleep quality improvement compared to non-blue light filtering spectacles.

“We found there may be no short-term advantages with using blue-light filtering spectacle lenses to reduce visual fatigue associated with computer use, compared to non-blue-light filtering lenses,” Downie said.

The effects of sleep and vision quality were “unclear” in the researchers’ assessment, she added, and they could not draw conclusions about the long-term “potential effects on retinal health.”

The University of Melbourne report didn’t find any serious side effects from wearing the specs, only mild consequences such as headaches or discomfort similar to wearing non-blue light glasses.

But still, the findings did “not support the prescription of blue-light filtering lenses to the general population,” Downie added.

“People should be aware of these findings when deciding whether to purchase these spectacles.”

Due to the “short follow-up period,” researchers were unable to accurately determine the long-term effects of wearing blue light glasses, prompting calls for further research from study author and postdoctoral research fellow Dr. Sumeer Singh.

“They should examine whether efficacy and safety outcomes vary between different groups of people and using different types of lenses,” said Singh.

Already, lights from screens amount to “a thousandth of what we get from natural daylight,” and blue light glasses only filter out 10% to 25% of it.

“Filtering out higher levels of blue light would require the lenses to have an obvious amber tint, which would have a substantial effect on color perception,” Singh said.

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