Buy any pair of eyeglasses these days, and the optician will ask if you want a blue-light film to block out certain wavelengths of light. But is that enough?
And what about versions that go further, with yellow, red or amber lenses?
The American bio-hacker, Dave Asprey, is rarely seen without his orange-lensed TruDarks, which the company he owns promises are like noise-cancelling headphones for your eyes.
But are these glasses, which enthusiastic reviewers on Amazon swear by, worth the hype — and a price tag that can be several hundred dirhams?
The answer is yes. Every one of us needs to manage light exposure to minimize a variety of risks to our health.
The obvious is the impact on our actual eyes: the strain, dryness, watering or irritation. Blue light also impacts sleep because it messes with your circadian rhythm, which is your internal clock that tells you when it’s time to sleep or be awake.
And while digital screens are a major source, they are only part of the problem. Environmental lighting, including the energy-efficient bulbs in our own homes and public spaces, from airplane cabins to movie theaters, is also a major contributor.
Dr Anurag Mathur, specialist ophthalmologist at Medcare Hospital in Sharjah, says the threat is real.
“Exposure to blue light above the threshold value is known to cause not only various harmful effects on the eyes, but also on the circadian rhythm due to its excitatory effect leading to lack of attention sleep disturbances and visual fatigue,” he says.
The oxidative damage caused by this light, which is one of the most strenuous for our eyes, can also lead to more serious, long-term problems like cataracts and glaucoma.
“It is capable of crossing the cornea and lens to reach the retinal surface and damage photoreceptors,” he adds.
So back to blue-light blocking glasses. Dr Anurag says they are worth the investment – necessary, even – because they actually prevent damage to the eye.
“The glasses work as a membrane that doesn’t let certain colors pass through, such as the blue light,” says Dr Anurag. “And the moment we apply these filters to our computers or wear the glasses, we notice a change immediately.”
And since these glasses go with you, you’re always prepared to limit your exposure when you need to.
What to look for when buying:
• Avoid glasses with completely clear lenses, as these will not block blue light as effectively. Instead, make sure they have amber lenses, which studies show are most effective at preventing blue light from reaching the eye. Wearing amber lenses — and especially doing so consistently at night — can improve sleep quality, correct disruptions to circadian rhythms and increase overall sleep amounts. Amber lenses also can reduce symptoms of insomnia, trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, waking very early and feeling un-refreshed by a night of rest.
• High-quality glasses made with amber lenses will effectively block blue light without darkening vision, by allowing other, less disruptive wavelengths, through. That way you can still see clearly for normal activities such as working on a computer, reading or watching television.
• Before you buy, make sure your blue light blocking glasses have been developed with the help of scientific experts with specific expertise in sleep, and that the product has been rigorously tested. Look for specific, laboratory-backed results.
• Make sure they’re anti-glare and anti-reflective. These features help ease the eye strain that comes from logging so much time in front of computers and other screens. Combined with the filtering of blue light and other high-energy visible light wavelengths, anti-glare and anti-reflective glasses can reduce a great deal of the strain and over-stimulation that comes from our light-rich environments.
(Tips courtesy The Sleep Doctor)
Asma Ali Zain
Asma Ali Zain is a Dubai based journalist with a field experience of 19 years. She has written extensively on a range of topics and key issues in the region and beyond but her areas of expertise are health, wellbeing and lifestyle writings. She loves tea, cats and sunsets.