Select is editorially independent. Our editors selected these deals and items because we think you will enjoy them at these prices. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time.
A few months into the coronavirus pandemic, I realized I was spending about 14 hours a day looking at a computer screen. Between attending school online and work, my eyes were rarely off my iPhone, iPad and laptop (sometimes glancing between all three for hours). And I began to feel the effects. At the end of the day, my eyes burned and my brain was throbbing. I could barely stay awake during dinner, too. Knowing I couldn't decrease my screen time much (and at the urging of friends and family), I decided to try a pair of blue light blocking glasses. As it turns out, the glasses didn’t fix everything for me — but that’s not surprising, according to ophthalmologist Yuna Rapoport, MD, founder and director of Manhattan Eye.
“The short answer is that blue light glasses really don’t help our eye health at all,” Rapoport explained. “But screens are harmful for our eyes because when we stare at screens, we forget to blink. This causes our corneas to dry out, which can lead to itching, burning and fatigue.”
If you use your computer at night and stare at your screen for hours, you are suppressing your sleep cycle right then and there.
Kara Hartl, MD, Ophthalmologist
So what’s the point of blue light glasses? They can positively impact our sleep cycle. According to The Sleep Foundation, light is the most important factor in aligning circadian rhythms. When we stare at screens before bed, we’re exposed to blue light, which tricks our brains into thinking it’s still daytime and disrupts our circadian rhythm. Blue light glasses can mitigate these effects but not totally eliminate them.
Ophthalmologist Kara Hartl, MD, has spent over a decade studying the effects of blue light on our eyes and bodies. She said in order to mitigate the effects of blue light, you need to control how much you're exposed to and how intense the exposure is. Some blue light glasses have yellow lenses. Dubbed “sleep glasses,” Hartl explained, they absorb blue light while allowing other wavelengths — units by which we measure light — to pass through. The darker yellow lenses are, the more efficiently they block blue light. And while clear lenses in blue light blocking glasses won’t harm you in any way, Rapoport said, they also don’t help your eye health, nor do they benefit your sleep cycle. These clear lenses offer minimal blue light filtration, making them less effective than yellow lenses.
We talked to experts about the many ways blue light impacts our health, and asked them to recommend the best products to help mitigate the effects of blue light as we spend all day using tech to work, learn, exercise and socialize.
Best blue light blocking sleep glasses
Hartl and Rapoport recommend blue light blocking “sleep glasses”' over traditional blue light glasses. Hartl suggests wearing the glasses for two to three hours before you go to bed if you’re looking at screens. Here are the best blue light blocking glasses from brands like Felix Gray and Lens Direct.
These glasses feature lenses that contain melanin, which provides protection against UV and high energy visible light. The lenses are yellow and are designed with a scratch protective coating. You can choose between two Melatonin Production Factor levels — three and six — which refers to how much blue light the lenses filter. The glasses come in a variety of frame styles, from Tortoise Shell square frames to Matte Black wayfarer frames.
Felix Gray’s line of Sleep Glasses, which comes in over a dozen frame styles, feature yellow tinted lenses that filter the range of blue light that impacts melatonin secretion: 440 to 500 nanometer wavelengths. They filter blue light during the day and night, and provide UVA and UVB protection. The lenses have an anti-reflective and anti-glare coating. They are available as reading, prescription and non-prescription lenses, and come in kids’ sizes, too. Felix Gray’s Nash frames are Black and have a medium width frame fit.
Ambr Eyewear’s sleeping glasses feature orange-tinted Ultra lenses that the brand says block over 90 percent of blue light. They have an anti-scratch coating and are polarized, which eliminates glare. The lenses block the majority of wavelengths between 440 and 500 nanometers, and they come in prescription and non-prescription lenses. The frames are black, unisex and designed to fit most head shapes.
Lens Direct’s amber-tinted lenses are designed to filter up to 90 percent of blue light, a higher percentage than the brand’s daytime BluDefend clear blue light blocking lenses. They’re available in prescription, non-prescription and reading lenses. The lenses can be purchased in over a dozen frame styles, including the Madison frames, which feature a sloping brow line, large rectangular lenses and polished double-rivets. The Madison Frames are available in four colors: Blue Crystal Laminate, Burgundy Crystal, Honey Tortoise and Matte Black.
These blue light blocking sleep glasses feature yellow lenses designed for use in the evening. They block 90 percent of blue light and provide UV protection. Cyxus’s sleep glasses are available in multiple colors and styles, including these 1960s-inspired frames. The circular Spike frames are half-rimless with a retro browline. They feature adjustable silicone nose pads and come in Black and Tortoise (currently out of stock).
What is blue light?
Blue light is the lightwave that our eyes interpret as the color blue. It’s just below the energy level of ultraviolet, which we often think of in terms of the sun’s UV rays that can damage our skin. Hartl said our eyes are designed to block ultraviolet light, but they aren’t designed to block blue light since it’s on the visible light spectrum (If our eyes blocked blue light, we would not be able to see the color blue).
Blue light is everywhere because it comes from the sun, Hartl noted. Usually, we are looking at light bouncing off objects around us, and those objects absorb most of the energy coming from the light. That’s not the case when it comes to the screens on our phones, laptops and tablets. Since we stare directly into our screens for extended periods of time, the amount of direct blue light that we are exposed to accumulates over time. After a while, it can impact our health.
How does blue light impact our health?
Scientists and medical experts don’t exactly know the extent to which blue light can damage human eyes, Hartl told us, since people have only been using technology frequently for a few years.
Studying blue light’s impact relies on cell cultures and animal models, Hartl said — there are no human trials. What we do know is that light is one of the most important external factors affecting our readiness for sleep, according to The Sleep Foundation. One of the highest wavelengths that comes off screens is in the 460 nanometer range, within which they’re absorbed by melanopsin, a pigment in our eyes that controls our circadian rhythm. Blue light targets melanopsin — when our eyes don’t see blue light, it signals to melanopsin that it’s time for our bodies to sleep. On top of that, blue light suppresses the body’s release of melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep cycle. Darkness prompts our body to start producing it and light causes that production to stop.
When to wear blue light glasses
Beyond how much time you spend in front of screens, Hartl said how close you are to them also impacts how much blue light you’re exposed to. When you’re sitting 5 to 10 feet away from a TV, for example, Hartl said the light the screen emits loses energy before it gets to your eyes. But if you’re a few inches away from your computer, phone or tablet screen, you’re exposed to more intense blue light. Because of this, Hartl said it’s more important to wear blue light blocking glasses when you’re using handheld tech.
Other blue light blocking products
Beyond blue light glasses, Hartl said she recommends blue light blocking screen covers that you can put on your computer, phones and tablets. Blue light blocking screen covers are a “one and done solution,” whereas you have to remember to put your blue light glasses on.
Rapoport also suggested using night mode on your tech when the sun goes down, or downloading an app like F.Lux. Both options give your screen a yellow hue, decreasing the intensity of the blue light you see.
Additionally, to help keep your eyes moist throughout the day, Rapoport recommended keeping preservative-free eye lubricating drops next to your computer and using them throughout the day. She said keeping a humidifier by your workstation or a desktop humidifier on your desk can help, too, and to follow the 20-20-20 rule: looking 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.