Introducing blue light glasses: a fashionable yet practical accessory that’s been helping students survive another semester of Zoom. Blue light has become a common talking point with the switch to more online activities, but many don’t know that blue light doesn't just come from technology.
Blue light, or visible light in wavelengths between 380 and 500 nanometers, is produced by the sun — which is the biggest source of blue light — as well as LED lights, fluorescent light bulbs and smartphones.
Cynthia Wilkins, an optical shop manager and optician, said that blue light protection has been around for five or six years but has recently escalated in popularity. She said more people have asked her about the glasses or a blue light coating, which she feels is due to more families being home on screens all day.
“Blue light glasses block out a portion of the blue light, probably between 30 to 50 percent — no one that I've ever asked could actually give me a definite number,” Wilkins said.
She said not all blue light can be blocked out because it would distort colors and perception, but that blocking out even a percentage of blue light at night can make a difference.
According to an article from Harvard Health Publishing, dim lights of any color can impact people's circadian rhythm and secretion of melatonin — but blue light impacts sleep more than any other type of light.
But it's hard to know if blue light glasses can help people have an easier time falling asleep.
Wilkins believes they probably work.
“I can tell from looking at lenses that blue light is being blocked out,” Wilkins said.
When looking for blue light glasses or a blue light screen, Wilkins said the more blue that can be seen on the glass, the more blue light it is blocking out.
Some UNC students have tried blue light glasses and have been successful in using them for more than sleep issues.
Rachel Reynolds, a first-year psychology major, suffers from migraines, with one of her main triggers being light sensitivity. In April, she heard about blue light glasses on TikTok and decided to try them.
“I would say that I have gotten less headaches from the computer,” Reynolds said. “Usually if I feel a headache start to come on, and I'm not wearing them, I'll put them on to try and help, and they usually do help.”
Similarly, Vanya Bhat, a sophomore majoring in neuroscience and medical anthropology, said she is prone to migraines from stress and screen time. Bhat had a blue light coating added to her prescription glasses after she was concerned about extended screen time.
“I didn't even realize how much they were helping until the last semester ended and finals ended,” Bhat said. “I realized that even though I was stressed out, my migraines weren’t happening and I was just like, ‘Oh, OK. Wow.’”
She said her glasses saved her from needing to take Tylenol to resume her school work.
Jeremy Soper, a sophomore majoring in business administration and economics, originally purchased blue light glasses because he was having trouble falling asleep at night.
“Now, I usually put them on at night and I have noticed a difference in my sleeping habits,” Soper said. “I usually get to bed a little bit quicker than I used to. I used to toss and turn a little bit, but not nearly as much now.”
There is not one clear answer to if blue light glasses do help or not, but signs point to yes. Wilkins said she has a blue light protection coating in her glasses, as does everyone else in her office.
“We all agree it's better to be safe than sorry later on down the road, because there's just not been enough studies of it yet,” Wilkins said.
She said some people say they can tell a difference and others do not, but she still recommends blue light glasses to her customers.
The Harvard Health Publishing article has a list of recommendations for blue light protection at night:
- Use dim red lights if possible;
- Try to not look at screens two to three hours before sleeping;
- Think about wearing blue light glasses at night;
- Spend a lot of time outside during the day.
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