As modern technology becomes more and more intertwined with our daily lives, recommendations concerning how much time we should spend looking at computer or smartphone screen seem increasingly out of touch with reality. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids 3 to 18 years old should limit their screen time to just two hours.
As any gamer will tell you, 2 hours barely puts a dent in the total amount of time we spend looking at a screen, especially if you consider smartphones, tablets, etc. in addition to time spent on computers. While gaming glasses are a great option and highly effective at protecting against eye strain, they can be somewhat impractical.
Blue light screen protectors promise to reduce digital eye strain and provide a number of health benefits without the limitations of gaming glasses. This article digs deep into the science behind screen protectors, answering the question of how effective they really are.
What is Blue Light?
To understand where blue light comes from, it’s important to know that light is made up of electromagnetic particles. These particles travel in waves of different length and strength, together forming the electromagnetic spectrum.
This spectrum is further divided into two parts: invisible radiation and visible radiation. The best-known member of the invisible part of the electromagnetic spectrum is ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Most of our exposure to UV radiation can be attributed to the Sun. Luckily for us, the atmosphere and ozone layer absorb most of the Sun’s damaging UV radiation before it reaches the surface, where it could potentially harm us.
Our focus here – blue light – is actually part of the visible spectrum. More specifically, it’s classified as high-energy visible light (HEV light), which is high-frequency and high-energy light in the violet/blue band from 400 to 500 nm in the visible spectrum.
Is Blue Light Harmful?
So, what exactly is the problem with blue light? According to the Dr. Michael Breus, “blue light hits cells inside your eye and makes them send a signal to an area of the brain known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus that tells us turn off melatonin production.”
As you may already know, melatonin is responsible for regulating your sleep cycle. As explained by a group of researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, evening use of light-emitting devices negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness.
What’s even more alarming than restless sleep is the suspected link between blue light and age-related macular degeneration, a medical condition which may result in blurred or no vision in the center of the visual field. The damaging effects of blue light are potentially so severe that a 2014 study found that retinal damage can occur even when there is no direct exposure, which can happen, for example, with household light bulbs.
Protecting your Eyes with Screen Protectors
The main advantage of blue light screen protectors over computer glasses is that you can completely forget about them once installed. What’s more, you can still wear your regular prescription lenses with a dedicated screen protector.
The only downside is that they are harder to take off when you need to do any color-sensitive work. As such, graphic designers are probably better off with a software-based blue light filter or blue light computer glasses.
Computer and Laptop Screens
Blue light screen filters come in many different sizes to fit just about any laptop or computer screen out there. Gamers who use full HD 24” screens can go for the Blue Light Screen Protector Panel by Accurate Films.
This high-quality blue light screen protector blocks up to 100% of hazardous HEV blue light from LED screens, thus reducing eye strain and helping you fall asleep faster at night. Another great benefit of this filter is its scratch resistant top coating, which adds an extra layer of protection to your screen.
The same company also sells blue light screen protectors for smaller monitors, larger monitors, and laptops. All of their products have received great reviews, a clear testament to their effectiveness.
Smartphone and Tablet Screens
What’s great about blue light screen protectors is that they can be cut to fit any screen size. iLLumiShield make screen protectors for Apple iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, and just about any other popular device out there. Other companies specialize in tablets or Android devices.
Many of the beneficial effects of blue light screen protectors can also be achieved with software solutions. The best-known example is f.lux, a small application which automatically adjusts the color temperature of your screen based on the time of day.
The open-source alternative to f.lux is called Redshift. The basic functionality is the same, but f.lux is available on all major platforms whereas Redshift works only on Windows and Linux. Android users can also try Twilight, a popular freemium alternative to f.lux. The app integrates extremely well with all versions of the Android operating system, resulting in a seamless user experience.
If you spend any significant amount of time on a computer or smartphone, you should consider investing in blue light screen protectors. Installation takes just a few minutes, but the health benefits will stay with you for the rest of your life.