Blue Light-Blocking Glasses: The Reason Everyone is Wearing Them (And You Should Be, Too)
Ever since these glasses made an appearance in our Live in the Now office four weeks ago, I’ve been incredibly excited to tell you about them. They are the perfect solution to a problem we’ve discussed many times before — one that can disrupt sleep, trigger headaches and even compromise brain health. And since discovering their health perks, several other members of the Live in the Now team have started wearing them. Here’s why you probably need them, too.
These days, it would be incredibly difficult to completely avoid things like fluorescent and LED lighting, flat-screen televisions, computer screens and mobile devices – but science is revealing a new threat from these devices that deserve a closer look.
While it has been widely discussed that smartphones carry health risks such as neck and back strains due to bad posture, EMF exposure, and causing finger and wrist joint pain, more and more attention is being paid to the damaging effect that some TVs, computers and smartphones may have on your brain and vision due to the fact that they emit incredibly unhealthy levels of blue light.
What is Blue Light?
Blue light is an inherent part of the natural spectrum of visible light, and therefore something that we are exposed to constantly. But, unlike UV rays, which the eyes filter to minimize contact with the retina, blue light passes through to reach the retina and trigger the release of certain chemicals in the brain.
In natural settings illuminated by the sun, blue light doesn’t pose any serious health risk. In fact, there are many situations in which blue light is beneficial. Blue light from the sun, for example, helps us wake up by signaling to the brain that it’s time to stop production of melatonin, a hormone the body produces to aid the sleep cycle. In this way, blue light can be beneficial in that both exposure to blue light in the morning and the absence of blue light at night, helps to promote a healthy, natural cycle of sleep and alertness.
But when artificial blue light is concentrated in an electronic device, such as a smartphone, TV or computer screen, it presents a different dynamic altogether. When we are exposed to blue light at this concentration, intensity and proximity — especially at night time — it can interfere with the process of melatonin production and make sleep more difficult.
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3 Health Risks of Unnatural Blue Light Exposure
1. Blue Light Throws Off Your Body’s Ability to Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep
In 2016, the American Medical Association released new guidelines for how communities could “reduce the harmful human and environmental effects of high-intensity [LED] street lighting.” They noted that that recent surveys had revealed that members of communities that use blue-rich LED streetlights more frequently experience dissatisfaction with sleep, excessive sleepiness and impaired daytime functioning.
Naturally, when blue light interferes with the body’s natural sleep cycle, the negative health implications can be greater than simply getting a bad night’s sleep. More and more research points to the relationship between lack of sleep and health concerns like memory problems, obesity and even heart disease.
In one study, mice were exposed to artificial light for 24 weeks. At the end of the 24 weeks, neural recordings revealed a 70% reduction in rhythmicity in the central circadian pacemaker of the suprachiasmatic nucleus, but that wasn’t all that was impacted. Researchers also recorded reduced skeletal muscle function, bone deterioration, and induced a transient pro-inflammatory state.
Interestingly, after the mice were returned to a standard light-dark cycle, neural recordings rapidly returned to normal.
2. Blue Light Could Increase Risk for Macular Degeneration
The interference that blue light causes in melatonin production goes beyond simply disrupting the sleep cycle. Blue light has been shown to damage the retina and trigger the damage thought to be the root cause of macular degeneration.
This perhaps explains why two antioxidants in particular — lutein and zeaxanthin — support your eye health in ways other antioxidants can’t. These powerful antioxidant pigments are capable of absorbing blue light, so when they accumulate in the eyes they form a protective shield in front of the light-sensitive cells of the retina.
3. Blue Light Causes Eye Strain
The short wavelength and high energy that characterize blue light also cause it to easily scatter, making it more difficult to focus. Over time, the repeated eye strain can trigger dry eyes, blurry vision, chronic headaches and even nearsightedness.
How to Protect Yourself From the Dangers Associated With Smartphones and Blue Light
Manufacturers are starting to catch up, with Acer offering a blue light filtering screen and Apple recently announcing the release of “night mode” on various software updates, but the changes aren’t coming fast enough.
While more research is required to better understand the health effects of blue light, it is already clear that blue light does have a negative impact, especially at night. While the most basic way to lessen your health risks is to limit the amount of time that you spend watching your LED TV or using computers and mobile devices, this isn’t practical for the majority of the population — which is where blue-light blocking glasses come in.
Since discovering this easy and inexpensive way to shield their eyes from the dangers of blue light, nearly everyone in our office has ordered a pair. While merely anecdotal, those in our office who have tried them (myself included) report experiencing less eye strain, fewer headaches and even better sleep. And another bonus is that they also reduce glare when driving at night, a huge perk for those who find it difficult to drive after sunset.
Here are a few of our favorites, but there is a huge selection of styles and colors on the market, most under $20, so be sure to browse around. Personally, I’ll never again work or watch TV at night without them.