If you’re suddenly seeing more people walking around with glasses around the office or at school, you’re not imagining things—they may be wearing blue light glasses. Sunlight a combination of all colors of light, including blue light. Each color of light has a wavelength and intensity which impacts the effect that light has on your eyes. Colors at the red end of the light spectrum have long wavelengths and low impact. At the other end of the spectrum, blue light has a short wavelength, which increases the impact that it has on your eyes.
Blue light isn’t only found in sunlight. It’s in LED and fluorescent light bulbs, and in TV screens. Blue light emitted by many of the devices that people use for hours every day like computers, smart phones, and tablets. Wearing blue light blocking glasses is one way to minimize the impact of all that exposure to blue light. Blue light is something that most people now are exposed to daily and it can cause health problems with continued exposure in large amounts.
What are blue light glasses?
Blue light glasses have lenses that have a special coating to minimize the impact of blue light on your eyes. If you wear prescription glasses, you can get prescription lenses that have a blue light blocking coating on them when you have your lenses made. Wearing blue light glasses is often recommended for anyone that spends a lot of time working on computers but they can also be useful for people who spend most of their day outside working as well. Sunlight gives off blue light in higher amounts than any electronic device, so jobs that require someone to be outdoors most of the time will expose people to a lot of blue light.
Does vision insurance cover blue light glasses?
Blue light blocking glasses range in price, and for some people the cost of blue light blocking glasses is prohibitive depending on the type of glasses. If you already wear prescription glasses you should just need to have your lenses coated with a blue blocker. If you have a job that has you sitting in front of a computer all day your vision insurance company may pay for the blue light blocking coating on your prescription lenses. The best thing to do is talk to your vision insurance to find out for sure if they will pay for your prescription blue light glasses.
Why blue light is unhealthy
Blue light isn’t inherently unhealthy. Blue light is what makes you alert during the day and it’s what regulates your circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is what tells you when it’s time to get up and when it’s time to sleep. Sunlight is generally good for you, and experts recommend spending at least a few hours outdoors every week to soak up vitamin A and get the many benefits that come from exposing yourself to sunlight, which includes blue light.
Blue light is becoming a concern for people’s health because these days people are exposed to so much more of it than ever before. These days people spend an average of 11 hours each day in front of a screen of some kind. That’s up from an average of nine hours each day just a few years ago.1 In the past, it was fine to be exposed to blue light for most of the day because at night people weren’t being exposed to it, allowing the body to recover from the stimulating effects of blue light.
Now, some people are working on computers for 12 hours a day or longer while also being exposed to the blue light in sunlight which can effectively double the amount of blue light that they’re being exposed to. Additionally, people are using their smart phones or tablets in the evening until they go to bed, and often they are still using them in bed. Then they wake up in the morning and immediately reach for their phones and then they are exposed to more blue light. The body barely has a chance to recover before the exposure starts again. Overexposure to blue light can cause vision problems and a series of other health problems.
Health problems associated with blue light exposure
There is evidence that some health problems that have become more prevalent in the last decade are due to the increased amount of time that people spend being exposed to blue light.
Digital eye strain
Digital eye strain is a condition that accounts for increased vision problems experienced by people who spend hours each day exposed to blue light from many different sources including TV, computer screens, smart phone screens, and more. Digital eye strain can cause headaches, irritability, dry eyes, tired eyes, sensitive eyes, and in some cases diminished vision. While most evidence linking blue light with digital eye strain is anecdotal, there is some evidence that digital eye strain and exposure to black light can contribute to vision loss.
Digital eye strain is commonly seen in office workers or workers from home who spend long hours staring at the computer but it can also happen to those who work outdoors. Eye doctors often recommend that you take an eye break every 20 minutes. Called the 20-20-20 rule, every 20 minutes you look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will help counteract the impact of blue blight.
Blurry vision can have many causes, exposure to blue light is just one possibility. Headaches and blurry vision together are strong indicators that part of the problem is blue light. You also could be sitting too close to the computer or don’t have enough light in the room when you’re on the computer. If you’re experiencing blurry vision often you should get your eyes checked by an eye doctor to make sure that there’s no permanent damage being done to your eyes. Spending less time on the computer, increasing the amount of light in the room, and getting your eyeglasses prescription checked all can help eliminate blurry vision.
Insomnia and interrupted sleep
Of all the problems that can be caused by overexposure to blue light interrupted sleep is the most dangerous one. Blue light can wake you up because your body associates blue light with daylight. So when you’re being exposed to blue light in daylight and on your computer screen for many hours a day and then spending another four to five hours a day on your phone or tablet, you are steeping your body in light that is going to keep it awake. When you do go to bed you may not be able to sleep because the blue light has messed up your circadian rhythm.
When your circadian rhythm is out of whack and you’re not sleeping enough your body will stop making the hormone melatonin, which is what tells your body when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to get up. Not having enough melatonin will lead to even poorer sleep and can influence the development of serious disease like obesity and heart disease.
Harvard researchers conducted an experiment to see if blue light exposure had a link to lower levels of serotonin. In their study they exposed people to both blue light and green light for the same amount of time. Their study found that people exposed to the blue light has about half of the serotonin as the people who were exposed to the green light.2 More research is being done but it’s clear that blue light plays a role in some of the significant health problems that people who are on their devices constantly are developing.
Macular degeneration usually gets worse as people get older, and there is no cure for this condition. Macular degeneration is the gradual deterioration of the central part of the retina in the eye. It causes progressive vision loss and eventually blindness. More than 200,000 people are diagnosed with macular degeneration each year. Blue light can contribute to macular generation and it can speed up degeneration in someone that already has the disorder.
Anxiety, depression, and mental health disorders
Long-term exposure to blue light and an interruption in the circadian rhythm can lead to changes in the brain that can cause increased levels of stress, anxiety, and anger.
The benefits of using blue light glasses
Since health professionals are just beginning to discover the various ways that blue light exposure can impact health, wearing blue light glasses can help reduce your exposure.
Normal circadian rhythm
Limiting your exposure to blue light by wearing blue light glasses won’t immediately return your circadian rhythm to normal, but over time they can help your body naturally reset itself so that you will begin to have a more normal sleeping pattern. If you combine wearing blue light blocking glasses with other lifestyle changes like spending less time on your phone or tablet at night you may see a difference in your ability to fall asleep and in the quality of your sleep.
Resetting your circadian rhythm and improving the quality of your sleep can also help you avoid some of the other problems associated with blue light exposure like weight gain, anxiety, and an increased risk of macular degeneration.
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