Good Thinking

Review: Blocking the blues with special specs

Review: Blocking the blues with special specs
The author getting some extra protection from the blue light blasting out of his monitors
The author getting some extra protection from the blue light blasting out of his monitors
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The author getting some extra protection from the blue light blasting out of his monitors
The author getting some extra protection from the blue light blasting out of his monitors

Sometimes it seems that blue light is to the 2010's what smog was to the 1970s. It comes at us from directions and irritates our eyes as it beams out of our smartphones, tablets and computer screens. While it's hard to find proper scientific studies on how much the light from electronic screens actually causes physical damage to our eye structure, there's pretty good research showing that when we get blasted by blue light at night, it definitely affects our ability to sleep.

There are a variety of ways to combat blue light including apps, screen filters and phone settings, such as Apple's "night shift" mode. We recently had a chance to try one of them in the form of a pair of eye glasses from GlassesUSA kitted out with the company's exclusive "digital block lenses."

While studies about the long-term effects of staring at computer screens all day are hard to come by, the American Optometric Association has come up with a term for the eye fatigue and irritation many of us feel after staring out our monitors all day: Computer Vision Syndrome. The organization says that the syndrome can lead to "eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes and neck and shoulder pain."

To help combat this, GlassesUSA created its digital block coating, which can be applied to a range of their glasses across all prescriptions. The coating works by reflecting about 10 percent of the blue light trying to invade your eyes. Unlike amber glasses which significantly change the way you see the world, the effect from this coating is much more subtle.

When I first tried the glasses on, I did notice a significant warming of the screen color, but after a few minutes, that fades and you forget that there's been a color shift at all. In fact, now when I take the glasses off, the screen actually looks a little too blue and harsh.

The company claims that the range of blue light blocked by the glasses helps with contrast and readability on the screen. I didn't really find much of a difference between the glasses with the coating and my regular glasses on this particular point, however.

I've also never really had much problem with eye fatigue or irritation even though as a writer, I stare at my large monitor for long stretches of time. So perhaps I'm not the best person to comment on that particular function of the glasses, because I didn't notice a difference here either. My eyes pretty much felt just the same at the end of the day as they always do, just fine.

What is noticeable though is the nice warm glow the glasses give. I quickly became a bit hooked on them. They're the visual equivalent of putting on a super-comfy sweatshirt on a cold day. It's also pretty nice to have a pair of glasses I can leave at my work station dedicated exclusively to monitor gazing. Although I have to say that even when I've worn the glasses out of the house, the color shift is subtle enough that I don't really notice that I'm seeing the world any differently than through non-tinted glasses.

If I were to order another pair of these glasses, I would definitely be sure to add an anti-glare coating. One of the most irritating things about the current pair is that I can actually see my own eyes getting reflected back at me, which has the odd effect of making me think the glasses are always smudged.

Still, even with that annoyance, these are the glasses I choose to work in every day because really, how can you beat a comfy sweatshirt for your eyes?

The price of the glasses varies based on the frames you choose and the type of prescription you have. Basic setups start as low as US$42 including lenses. The digital block upgrade is currently free, but usually costs an extra $29 to add. Also, despite the company's name, shipping is available worldwide.

Product page: GlassesUSA

1 comment
1 comment
Related topics are light therapy for seasonal affective disorder, and natural spectrum lighting in buildings.
Comparing the various spectrum changes claimed by the devices might be informative. Natural spectrum tends to look more blue-tinged, but the GlassesUSA lense filters out blue light. "The Digital Block lenses reflect and filter the blue light emitted in artificial light."
However, light therapy is a more natural spectrum. It is a genuine psycho-physiological effect, with decades of research, e.g. Western University, Ontario, Canada, in the 1970's. ie, it is not simply a placebo effect.
"Light therapy is a way to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and certain other conditions by exposure to artificial light. SAD is a type of depression that occurs at a certain time each year, usually in the fall or winter." (Mayo Clinic)
"Happy lights" based on light therapy principles are available from various retail suppliers.
Of course, the winter light in Florida and Arizona is also therapeutic for northern residents.