Would you wear sunglasses around the house after the sun sets if it meant you are sure to sleep more soundly? Before we get into the blue-blocking glasses part of this story, let’s talk about what exactly blue light is, and why it could be hurting your sleep.
About to get geeky for a minute: Sunlight contains red, orange, yellow, green and blue light rays, all of which have different wavelengths and emit different levels of energy into your eyes. All combined together, this big spectrum of colored light rays creates what we know as sunlight, or “white light.” The rays on the red side of the spectrum have longer wavelengths and emit less energy, and rays on the blue end of the spectrum have shorter wavelengths and emit more energy to your eyes.
While sunlight is the main place we take in blue light, we also get a lot of blue light from our man-made, indoor sources of light, both the old-school lightbulbs we used to use and even the more efficient LED lights, as well as the screens—TVs, computers, phones, tablets—we love so much. While the sun does give off way more blue light than our cellphones do, we don’t stare directly into the sun for hours on end the way we do our phones. So not only is this a problem for long-term eye health, it’s also a problem for your sleep.
It’s an issue for sleep because taking in too much blue light, especially right before you go to bed, suppresses your body’s natural melatonin production, which then disrupts your circadian rhythm. This essentially means your body gets tricked into thinking it’s daytime and not bedtime, even when it’s way past your bedtime. The result being you have trouble falling asleep.
While technology, and specifically our phone companies, are allegedly trying to protect us from blue light at night — Apple introduced a new feature in 2016 that they called “night shift,” which shifts the color of your phone’s display to emit less blue light once the sun goes down—it’s still unclear (not yet proven by science) whether this effort by Apple is really making a difference for our eyes and our sleep.
Another option: Blue blocking glasses. Basically, blue blocking glasses are glasses that block most of the blue light we take in once it’s dark outside and we’re meant to be winding down and prepping for bed. You wear them inside to block the artificial light. There are certainly blue blocking glasses critics out there who say they don’t really help but there is also a decent amount of research that does suggests blue blocking glasses might be worth looking into, especially if you’re someone who needs to be on a computer late at night finishing work or whatnot.
Specifically, one study done at the University of Houston College of Optometry and published in the Journal Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/opo.12385) suggests blue light from digital devices are contributing to the increasing number of people with reported sleep dysfunction. The study found those who wore short wavelength-blocking glasses three hours before bed for two weeks experienced a 58 percent increase in melatonin levels. As a result, these participants said they slept better, fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer when they wore the blue blocking glasses.
Have you ever tried blue-blocking glasses? Do you recommend them? Tell us about your experience.