Eye Strain Glasses Explained: Are they worth it?

Credit: ID 141308717 © Muhmed | Dreamstime.com

With more and more professionals looking to work from home in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic, you might be wondering if it's worth investing in a set of eye-strain or blue-light resistant glasses. Do these specs even do anything? Is there a scientific basis in the claim that they help protect your eyes or improve your health or is it modern day snake oil?

Here’s a quick explanation of whether eye-strain glasses are worth it:

What is blue light and why does it matter?

Let’s start with the basics here. Light is necessary for the human eye to see. It bounces off whatever you’re looking at and into your retina, which then passes those signals onto your brain, which assembles them into imagery in real time. 

Now, ‘Blue Light’ is a specific type of ultraviolet light. It’s commonly - but not exclusively - found in sunlight and one of the many different kinds of light that humans regularly encounter.

It’s been theorized that over the course of evolution, humans adapted to use the decline of blue light as an unconscious trigger for the release of a hormone called melatonin. 

Melatonin essentially tells your body that it’s time to sleep. However, as put by the National Sleep Foundation, blue light  “can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness, and reset the body’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm) to a later schedule.”

If you’re staying up late staring at a screen, your body is going to confuse your computer for sunlight and will hold back on releasing any of the so-called sleepy chemicals. This is why you may have trouble sleeping after staring at a screen for hours. 

Credit: Photo 157341757 © Fizkes - Dreamstime.com

Do these glasses really have any health benefits?

To date, there’s not much in the way of scientific consensus around whether eye-strain glasses actually have any reliable health benefits. 

Locally, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists Associate Professor Heather Mack has said that “there’s no scientific basis for claims that blue light from digital devices is harmful for people’s eyes and therefore there’s no scientific basis for the use of blue light filtering spectacle lenses to prevent eye disease.”

According to a statement published by the UK’s College of Optometrists in 2018, “The best scientific evidence currently available does not support the use of blue-blocking spectacle lenses in the general population to improve visual performance, alleviate the symptoms of eye fatigue or visual discomfort, improve sleep quality or conserve macula health."

This is where we have to start splitting hairs. While the official advice is that anti-blue light specs don’t provide benefits or additional protection, there’s still a lot of evidence that blue light can affect your sleep. Still, most doctors are likely to recommend you take the step of simply reducing your screen time before they endorse buying a set of eye strain or blue-light resilient glasses. 

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Fergus Halliday
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