If you spend hours on your computer, tablet or smartphone each day, you're being overexposed to blue light.
Blue light is the backlight glow we see when we scroll on social media and work on our computer screens each day. Exposure is a completely necessary by-product of living a modern, connected life, but too much can have negative impacts on your health. So what can you do about it, if you don't want to or can't give up your screen?
Sleep loss and screen time
I’m sure you’ve read many articles about how important it is to turn your phone off at least an hour before you go to bed… I know I’ve written them! But, realistically, if you’re anything like me, you don’t really listen to the message.
It’s just too tempting to lie in bed, relaxing after a long day by scrolling through social media mindlessly. Or, if you’re having trouble sleeping, how tempting is it to light up the screen of your phone and browse for a while, until you feel tired again?
As it happens, that is the worst thing you can do. "Too much blue light exposure can cause damage to the parts of the eye such as the retina, lens and cornea," says Vision Direct optometrist, Jessica Chester.
"They also affect our hormones, which in turn has a negative impact on our diurnal nocturnal sleep patterns."
Simply put, the stimulation from the screen can wreck our natural sleep cycle, making it even harder to wind down at night and wake up feeling well-rested the next morning. According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, these devices suppress melatonin levels, the hormone essential for sleep.
But, if you’re anything like me, and not willing to give up your habit, there is something you can do to help block blue UV light: wear blue blocker glasses.
Blue blockers demystified
Blue blocker lenses look like any other glasses – the lenses can be clear, yellow or blue-hued and are suitable for any type of eyes.
“The lenses are an extra coating put over any lens, be for distance, near, multifocal, or computer lenses, or even no prescription,” says Jessica. “An idea that originally came from NASA, the lenses are specifically designed to block blue LED light and harmful UV rays that are disrupting our natural melatonin intake."
Jessica believes they are beneficial to everyone who feels eye strain – including children – who consume content on their screens for a considerable amount of time each day, even if they don't wear prescription glasses.
Should I get new lenses?
There has been a lot of publicity around the blocking lens and whether or not they are effective. While the results differ for most people, there are a few things you can look out for if you decide to buy a pair:
"I often get asked how to decide which blue light blocker glasses to buy, given the hundreds of different types on the market that vary in price from $10 to $150," says Jessica.
"Make sure they actually block out the significant blue light! Lenses must block a large proportion of the blue light wavelength (measured in nanometers) known to suppress melatonin. Generally speaking, if the lenses can block most of the blue light between 440 nm and 470 nm, you should enjoy sleep benefits," she says.
If in doubt, speak to your optometrist. They will be able to advise on the best pair for your specific needs.