Action News Jax Investigates: If blue-light blocking glasses really help, or if it’s all just hype

Economists say Americans will spend $22 million this year on glasses that promise to block blue light from digital devices, reducing eye strain and preventing lost sleep.

Action News Jax Alicia Tarancon investigated if they’re worth the hype and your money.

Like many people, Beth Anne Holl is working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That means she’s also been spending more time ever in front of screens.

“I’m logging probably six to seven hours a day just staring at the screen. I do a lot of writing; a lot of emails, a lot of Zoom calls. So I’m really focused on that screen and it definitely has an effect.”

Holl is part of the growing trend of Americans using special glasses that claim to block out blue light from digital devices.

“If I don’t wear my blue-light glasses, I get really tired, my eyes get a lot more strained. I get really bad headaches too if I’m staring at the screen all day.”

Holl said when she went to the eye doctor a few years ago, the doctor recommended them.

“She told me you might want to look at a pair of these especially if you’re getting headaches, which I was, and from there the next time I got my eyeglasses prescribed, I got the blue-light lenses in them and it was a world of difference.”

According to Market Watch, the blue-light blocking glasses market is valued at $22 million dollars in 2020 and is expected to grow by $38 million by the end of 2026.

Retailers of the glasses promise less eyestrain, better sleep, and the ability to prevent eye disease, but because the glasses aren’t marketed as a medical device those claims aren’t verified by the FDA.

Dr. Sandeep Grover, the associate chair of the Ophthalmology Department at UF Health Jacksonville, said there isn’t enough research to prove blue-light glasses offer those benefits.

“There’s a lot of hype about blue filtering glasses and the blue light that is supposedly coming out of telephones or laptops. Well, there is some element to it, but the amount of blue light that comes out is not enough to cause disease in the eye,” Dr. Grover said.

When it comes to reducing eyestrain, he said, you can do that for free.

“If someone is on computers for a long time, they can go by the 20-20-20 rule of thumb, which is that after every 20-minute use of computer, look out into the distance about 20 feet away for 20 seconds, and that’s kind of a good rule of thumb.”

Dr. Grover says if your eyes are dry, use eye drops, or make sure you have prescription glasses so your eyes don’t feel strained.

Also, it’s a good idea to stay off any digital device for at least one to two hours before you’re about to go to sleep.

“There is a melatonin that is produced in the body that helps the body to calm down and sleep, and melatonin reduction is reduced by bright lights so it’s not the blue light itself, but just the exposure to any kind of light before you go to sleep,” Dr. Grover said.

Despite those findings, Holl isn’t giving up her glasses and said she notices a difference.

“I really think it’s worth trying, especially if you’re like me and you’re spending hours in front of the screen,” Holl said.

You can also put your device into night mode.

Experts say those softer colors won’t affect melatonin production as much, meaning you can get a better night’s sleep.