There are dozens of options when it comes to blue light blocking glasses. But which blue light blocking glasses truly work best for amazing sleep?
I’m also going to have a big surprise for you that 99% of people talking about blue blockers are unaware of (hint: standard blue blockers are not good enough.)
Want to skip all the background reading and scroll directly to my top 2 recommendations for which glasses to get? Click here.
Download or listen on iTunes
Listeon outside iTunes
First of all, I want to mention that there are different types of blue blockers for different types of purposes. It’s possible to use blue light blocking glasses for:
- Pre-bedtime use at night to block blue light from entering the eyes and supporting good melatonin production (and sleep). In this case, you want true blue blockers, not just blue reducers – i.e. you want to completely eliminate all blue light. (And, actually, as you’re going to learn in this article, it’s not only critical to eliminate blue light, but your blue light blocking glasses need to do more than that ideally.)
- Daytime use when you are spending lots of time in front of a screen (and are getting too much artificial blue light). In this case, the proper term is actually “blue reducer” or “blue reducing glasses.” You don’t want to block all blue light, but just minimize excess artificial blue light from electronic devices. For this use, you don’t want true blue blocking glasses (which are amber or red) – you want clear or lightly tinted glasses that are designed to block only part of the blue light spectrum.
The purpose of this article is to address #1 – the use of blue light blocking glasses at night to support optimal circadian rhythm and sleep.
The Circadian Rhythm
In order to understand why blue light glasses matter at all, you first need to understand the brain’s circadian rhythm.
A mountain of scientific research has now shown that the degree to which your circadian rhythm is healthy and optimized has a huge impact on your risk of dozens of diseases, your longevity, your body composition, and your energy levels. In fact, in people with chronic low energy and daytime tiredness, one of the single biggest causes is circadian rhythm disruption and poor sleep.
First of all, what is the circadian rhythm and why does it matter?
You may have heard of people mentioning the circadian rhythm or circadian clock and you may have some vague concept that it has something to do with sleep, but it is much more than that, so let’s get a little clearer on this. All of life on this planet has evolved in alignment with the daily 24-hour pattern of light and dark and as a result the physiological and behavioral processes of all organisms including humans is synchronized to this 24-hour cycle.
The circadian rhythm is simply your body’s biology responding to the external signals of light and dark. On a very direct, practical and “every day” level…
Want to know why you get sleepy at night and then fall asleep for 7 to 9 hours?
That is your circadian clock in your brain controlling hormones and neurotransmitters. Want to know why you wake up in the morning and stay awake all day? That is your circadian clock in your brain controlling hormones and neurotransmitters. The truth goes way beyond just waking up and going to sleep. Our body’s whole hormonal symphony is in tune with light and darkness, and light and darkness moderate our core body temperature, set off reparative hormones to heal wounds, and power down systems that need cellular repair at night.
Our bodies respond to visual cues in our environment, chiefly light and darkness, to release hormones and neurotransmitters that either power us up and awake for daytime or prepare us for sleep and repair.
- Light = cue to the brain to be awake, alert, active and go into ENERGY mode
- Darkness = cue to the brain to be tired and go into SLEEP mode
The way this works is that light enters our eyeballs and specifically the blue light part of the spectrum (think the blue sky) triggers specific receptors in our eye called melanopsin receptors that are connected via nerves to the circadian clock area of the brain (called the suprachiasmatic nucleus).
Once the circadian clock area of the brain gets the blue light signal from the nerves, that is translated into “it’s daytime – the time to be awake, alert, active and energetic.” The brain then initiates a whole cascade of different neurotransmitter and hormone changes that rewire your physiology into daytime/active/energy mode.
Once the sun goes down, the lack of light entering the eyes and triggering the nerves that feed into the circadian clock of the brain then trigger the brain to say “it’s nighttime – the time for tiredness, relaxation, rest, regeneration, and sleep.” The brain then initiates a whole cascade of different neurotransmitter and hormone changes that rewire your physiology into nighttime/rest/sleep mode.
So if this is how we’re biologically wired, then why is the system malfunctioning and causing sleep issues and fatigue?
The answer: Because the modern world we live in is fundamentally mismatched to the signals our biology – and our circadian rhythm in particular – is designed for. As human beings we are designed to be exposed to lots of natural sunlight and the bright outdoor sky for hours each day, starting first thing in the morning after we wake up.
We’re also designed to have little to no light around after the sun goes down – except for moonlight and firelight, which don’t disturb circadian rhythm. Artificial light from our electronic devices (phones, TVs, computers, indoor lighting, etc.) affects our body just like the blue light we get from the sun.1
Today, it is no wonder we’re having trouble getting asleep or that our circadian rhythms are so disrupted. Our brains are being cued it’s daytime by artificial light constantly. The modern world blunts our circadian rhythm. What that means is that the 24-hour circadian clock in our brain is chronically in a mild state of jet lag.
Think of it like this: The circadian rhythm is like a wave – it has a peak and a valley. The peak is Energy Mode/Daytime and the valley is Sleep Mode/Rest/Regeneration. To have a strong circadian rhythm means that you have a HIGH peak (i.e. lots of energy during the day) and that you have a very low valley (i.e. your body goes deep into sleep/regeneration mode at night). When you blunt the circadian rhythm, you blunt both the peak and the valley. That means that you don’t sleep/regenerate nearly as well as you should be, and you are not nearly as energetic as you should be.
- Strong circadian rhythm = deep sleep, powerful cell regeneration, and lots of energy
- Blunted circadian rhythm = poor sleep, incomplete cell regeneration, and chronic fatigue/tiredness
Simply put: Virtually all of us in modern society are suffering from one degree or another of circadian rhythm disruption. In short… We’re not getting enough of a Daytime/Energy Mode signal into our circadian clock in our brain during the daytime (when we should be getting it) We’re getting way too much of a Daytime/Energy Mode signal at night (when we shouldn’t be getting it).
This may seem to be a trivial difference to you. But what if I told you that it is the difference between normal vs. abnormal levels of dozens of hormones and neurotransmitters that affect everything from your mood, to your metabolism, to how fat or lean you are, to clearing toxins out of your brain and body, to ridding the body of DNA-damaged cells (critical for preventing cancer), to your sleep, to your energy levels? Would you still think it was trivial? In fact, that is precisely what our circadian rhythm does. How does a chronically disrupted circadian rhythm affect us? Disrupted circadian rhythm has been shown to:
- Contribute to inflammatory diseases2
- Dramatically weaken your immune system and increase susceptibility to infections by over 5 fold3
- Increase risk of cancer, and metabolic syndrome45
- Increase risk of cardiovascular disease6
- Increase levels of stress hormones like cortisol7
- Predispose to cancer, and accelerate tumor growth. (Tumors grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions.)8
- Increase risk of psychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative diseases9
- Seriously impair your memory.
- Worsen a long list of other diseases and disorders, including Hypothyroidism (i.e. slow metabolism), heart disease, stomach ulcers, constipation, mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
- Accelerate the aging process 10
- Increase rates of depression and anxiety11
- Profoundly decrease energy levels and increase daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
- Dramatically increase your overall risk of dying from any cause.
If it isn’t clear yet, let’s just state this very directly: Despite the fact that most of us in the modern world have no idea what the circadian rhythm is, let alone have any concept of what controls it or how it affects our physiology, circadian rhythm is a massive factor in our health.
And our modern world—which is almost perfectly engineered to disrupt our circadian rhythm—is wrecking our health, vitality, body composition, energy levels, and quality of life. In short, having an optimized circadian rhythm or a disrupted circadian rhythm can be the difference between poor health, body composition, and quality of life versus excellent health, body composition, and quality of life. Consider the following table that shows the typical characteristics strongly affected by circadian rhythm:
(If you want to learn more about how circadian rhythm affects your sleep, go check my article where I go in-depth with all the science-backed factors that distrupts your circadian rhythm.)
Where do blue light blocking glasses and “blue blockers” fit into all of this? Simple: In order to have a healthy circadian rhythm, you must minimize your exposure to man-made light at night after the sun goes down. To keep your brain (and your hormones and neurotransmitters that are regulated by the circadian rhythm) working properly, you must mimic the environment that your brain is designed to sense in the hours before bed. To do this properly, you need to do one of two things:
- Completely eliminate all sources of artificial light in your home for 2 hours prior to sleep. That means no TV, no phone use, no indoor lighting, no iPads, no streetlight light coming through the windows, no computers, etc. and only use fire light or candle light as light sources. Since that option is guaranteed to be too extreme for 99.9999999% of people reading this, fortunately there is another option…
- Control the light entering your eyes by wearing glasses that specifically block the wavelengths of light from these man-made light sources that affects our circadian rhythm. That way, we can still use our computer, phone, TV, indoor lighting, etc., while also maintaining an optimal circadian rhythm!
Option #2 it is! So, how do you do that? The most important single strategy to do here is to use glasses at night for 1-2 hours before bed, that block out the harmful wavelengths of light.
The Big Breakthrough in Blue Blockers
IT’S NOT ONLY BLUE LIGHT THAT MATTERS, BUT GREEN LIGHT AS WELL! TO OPTIMIZE YOUR CIRCADIAN RHYTHM AND SLEEP, YOU NEED BOTH GREEN AND BLUE BLOCKING GLASSES!
For many decades, it has been thought that the circadian clock in our brain only responds to blue light. I myself taught this for many years. Thus, the goal has been to use glasses that specifically block the blue spectrum of light – i.e. “blue blockers.” And there are actually several companies on the market that make highly effective blue light blocking glasses that do block out most or all light in the blue spectrum. Boom. Problem solved. It’s as simple as that. Unfortunately, we now know that’s not the case.
Here’s the big problem: As of just a few years ago, it has now been discovered that it’s not only blue light that disrupts the circadian clock, but also green light!1213 It has now been discovered that light in the green range (up to 550nm) also suppresses melatonin and sends a “daytime” signal to the brain!
So, the reality is that even if you have blue blockers from one of the top companies that actually do make glasses which completely block all blue light (and remember, most “blue blocking glasses” on the market don’t even do that), you’re still not doing enough to fully optimize your circadian rhythm. Want to know if your current blue blockers block both blue and green? Well, it’s pretty much a guarantee that they don’t, but if you want to test it for yourself…
How to Test Your Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Put your glasses on and look at the boxes below. The one on the left is blue, but should appear black. The one on the right is green, but should appear dark gray or black.
This test will first of all allow you to test whether your blue blockers are actually blocking blue light effectively (note: most “blue blockers” on the market don’t actually completely block blue light.) If the blue box doesn’t appear black and you can still see any blue, that means you only have partial blue blocking lenses. And even if you have true blue blockers, you’ll notice that it doesn’t change the color of the green box and you can still see the green color coming through very well. That is a big problem.
It is true that blue light is a more powerful disruptor of circadian rhythm and a more powerful suppressor of melatonin. But, significant amounts of green light – like the amounts we get from indoor lighting and electronic devices like phones, computers and TVs – are enough to suppress melatonin and completely disrupt circadian rhythm, even if you are wearing glasses that block out blue light. In a natural environment (prior to the advent of man-made artificial lighting), after the sun went down, the only sources of light were the moon, the stars and firelight.
All of these sources of light have very minimal blue and green light in their spectrum, and are very low intensity (in terms of the overall light intensity, measured in “lux.”) So, here’s the reality… After the sun goes down, we are designed for an environment that has little to no light in the spectrum below 550nm and is mostly orange and red (550nm and above).
The wavelengths above 550nm have essentially no impact on melatonin and circadian rhythm, in the way that blue and green light do. In other words, we can sit by a fire or in a room lit with candles and that light does not disturb circadian rhythm at all. But the big problem is that modern man-made artificial light – from indoor room lighting, to cell phones, to TVs, to iPads, to computers, to car headlights, to streetlights all have lots of blue and green light wavelengths.
In many cases, these light sources are actually mostly blue and green light. So, the simple fact is that we now know that even the top of the line blue blockers that completely block all blue light are still not enough to keep your circadian rhythm healthy. The truth is that you actually need
BLUE LIGHT BLOCKING GLASSES THAT ALSO BLOCK GREEN LIGHT (i.e. Blue/green blockers). Now, I realize that this is annoying. I was also annoyed when I first discovered this new research showing that green light also disrupts the circadian rhythm and that I needed to upgrade from blue blockers to blue and green blockers. Another expense. Another inconvenience. I get it. But it’s just the reality that science progresses. We learn more, and as we learn more, we need to update our strategies to optimize our health. So, if you’re committed to optimizing your health and energy levels, this is a key strategy to implement. With that said, let’s talk about the pros and cons of blue/green blockers vs. blue blockers.
Pros of Blue/Green Blockers vs. Blue Blockers
Here’s the good news: When you upgrade from blue blockers to glasses that block both blue and green light, you will be rewarded handsomely. You will:
- Fall asleep faster
- Sleep deeper
- Have fewer night awakenings
- Allow your body to spend more time in the brain-restoring phases of deep sleep
- Produce more melatonin (which protects your mitochondria from damage) and is a powerful anti-aging and health-promoting hormone
- Have more energy and vitality during the day as a result of all the above
Even though I religiously wore blue blockers before this, even I noticed a significant improvement when I switched to blue and green blockers. For those that don’t wear blue blockers all the time, they’ll notice an even more dramatic shift. For me, most nights I will fall asleep within 30-40 minutes of putting the glasses on. Sometimes it’s very dramatic – they just put you to sleep very quickly. Even if you didn’t feel sleepy when you put them on, don’t be surprised if you’re completely asleep 15-30 minutes later. (If you lay down or sit in a reclined position – as opposed to standing or sitting upright – the transition will happen much faster.) Oftentimes, I will fall asleep 20 minutes into starting a movie, because the glasses are just that powerful in putting my brain into sleep mode.
Cons of Blue/Green Blockers vs. Blue Blockers
Now, not everything is rosy and wonderful though (even though the glasses are actually quite rosy in a literal sense). There are a couple cons worth noting:
#1. The lenses are darker, so it’s harder to see through them and see a person’s eyes (which is relevant to social gatherings, etc.). So, they will make you seem odd if you’re wearing them at a party or hanging out with friends at night and wearing the glasses.
#2. More significantly, the biggest downside is that by blocking blue and green light, you further decrease color perception when watching TV or working on the computer. Some people are surprised to discover that when wearing the glasses, they see much less color when watching movies or TV shows. Unfortunately, this goes with the territory. By blocking blue and green light, you … well… block blue and green light!
In other words, shades of blue and green colors on TV shows will appear flat (shades of grey). So the experience becomes a little more like watching TV in black and white. Not quite that bad, but you get the idea. Again, this MUST happen. You cannot have glasses that block blue and green light that still allow you to see blue and green colors on the TV as you would without the glasses. It is not possible. Now, I personally find this to be no big deal. After two nights, I got used to watching TV and movies like this and I don’t even think about it at all now.
But some people will find it annoying and can’t get over it. If you’re an artist and you do work late at night right before bed (which by the way, you shouldn’t be – you should be winding down for bed – but if you do…), and you need totally accurate color perception on your computer to do your work properly, then you can’t wear these glasses. Though you probably also can’t wear regular blue blockers either, because those will also alter color perception. If you’re a movie buff or love TV shows and you just cannot stand the thought of the colors of the TV being altered a bit, and you’d rather suffer health consequences than deal with altered colors on your movies and TV shows, then hey, these glasses probably aren’t for you.
Please realize that this only applies to literally the last 1-2 hours of your night that you are wearing the glasses. So there are some negatives to be aware of here, but this is a small price to pay for better sleep, improved brain health, decreased risk of dozens of diseases that are linked with circadian disruption, and more energy. If you are serious about living your life with maximal health and energy levels, taking care of your circadian rhythm (and wearing blue/green blockers for at least an hour before bed) is a must.
The Other Big Problem With Most Blue Light Glasses – They Still Let Blue Light Into Your Eyes On The Sides
This is a more subtle issue that isn’t talked about nearly as much as it should be. Many of the blue blockers on the market that are designed to be stylish (E.g. 80s Rayban style glasses or other stylish looks) sit in front of the eyes and do not effectively wrap around the whole eye socket area. These glasses are sold by the thousands and hardly anyone ever seems to mention the wraparound issue. In fact, it is actually a huge problem. Basically, a deal breaker.
The reason why is that if you don’t use a style that wraps around the whole eye socket area, artificial light still makes it in through the sides (and top and bottom) without being filtered by the lenses before hitting your eyes. Even worse, the light that enters from the sides actually can get refracted by the inner side of the lens (since it’s only the blue that bounces off the lens) and sent right into your eyes.
Also, some companies use clear or translucent frames around the lenses that can magnify blue and green light and direct it into the eye. So the simple fact is that wearing many of these stylish blue blockers just isn’t effectively blocking even the blue light, let alone the green light. Most blue blockers on the market have both of these two problems, and virtually all of them have at least one of these two issues.
Summary: The Two Big Problems With Almost All The “Blue Blockers” On the Market
Given what I just explained, there are two big problems with most blue light blocking glasses on the market today. And virtually all of the blue blockers on the market have one or both of these two problems.
PROBLEM #1 – They Don’t Block Green Light
Most of the whole blue blocker industry has been built around the notion that only blue light affects circadian rhythm. Unfortunately, we now know that is not true and that green light disrupts it as well. So for optimal sleep (and optimal HEALTH, i.e. protection from the dozens of diseases linked with disrupted circadian rhythm), we DO need to block out both blue and green light in the hour or two prior to bed.
(Note: Most of the “blue blockers” on the market don’t even completely block out all blue light – they only block part of the blue spectrum. And the vast majority of people even using blue blockers have no idea that the glasses they’re using are doing almost nothing for them.)
PROBLEM #2 – They Don’t Wrap Around the Eyes
Blue light blocking glasses that are stylish and don’t wrap around the eye socket are further problematic, because not only are they not blocking all of the problematic wavelengths (since they don’t block green light), but they also don’t even block blue light that enters from the sides.
So room lighting overhead or lamps or TVs or computers that are not directly in front of you will all still create blue light that hits your eyeballs without being filtered of the blue. Most blue blockers on the market have both of these two problems, and virtually all of them have at least one of these two issues.
The Real Solution For Optimal Circadian Rhythm, Health, And Sleep: You Want Green and Blue Light Blocking Glasses That Wrap Around The Eye Socket
The real solution here is pretty straightforward: You need glasses that block both blue and green light, and which wrap around the eye socket to block out light from all angles. Do that, and all problems are solved. You now have an effective sleep aid that will keep your circadian rhythm intact. So are there any glasses on the market that do this? Sure enough, as of just the last couple years, there are a few companies now making Blue/Green blocking glasses that do exactly this…
TrueDark Twilight Glasses
These are great, quality true Blue/Green Blockers that do the job well. They have a great reputation overall. My personal experience was that they didn’t quite fit my face right (so they still let some light in on the sides and bottom), and that the lenses felt too small. It almost felt a little like looking through binoculars. In other words, the frame was blocking too much of my vision, and it wasn’t a very pleasurable experience. But overall, the feedback on these from most people is very good.
This is another company that makes lenses that block both blue and green light. They offer a custom tinting service where you can send them any pair of glasses (any frame type, including wraparound styles) and they will tint those lenses with blue/green blocking tint. This service is a bit pricey though for many people, at $400+.
This is another company based out of Australia that makes blue/green blockers. The problem here is that all of their glasses are the more hip, stylish kind that don’t wrap around the eye socket. So while they are using the right kind of lens tint, the styles of the glasses are not optimal, so I cannot give it my highest recommendation.
This is my top choice, and what I use personally. The SleepSaviors are similar glasses to the TrueDark glasses, but with a couple key differences. This company actually reached out to me to consult with me to find out what I thought would make the ideal light blocking glasses to support a healthy circadian rhythm. I gave them my input on the TrueDark’s – I told them to make the lenses larger (so that I don’t feel like I’m looking through binoculars) and to make them fit the face better to block as much possible light on the top, bottom and sides of the eyes.
They did exactly that. They made large lenses and they added a flexible, semi-detached cushion on the inside of the frame that fits to your face where you need it. And they are also less expensive than the TrueDark glasses. That’s why these are my top choice and what my wife and I personally use. You can get them here (with 15% off): Buy SleepSaviors
SafetyBlue also offers fitover blue/green blockers for anyone who needs to put them over their prescription glasses. Click here to buy the SleepSavior fitovers.
Summary of Recommendations For The Top Blue Blockers (Blue/Green Blockers)
#1 Choice: Sleep Saviors My top choice here is the SleepSaviors. And they have the added benefit of being the cheapest of all the options here. With their lens size, true blue/green blocking lens technology, the wraparound style with semi-attached cushions that mold to the shape of your face, they cannot be beaten in my opinion. They have two styles, but I prefer the style with the cushion on the frame because it blocks light on the sides more completely. Here is the link to the main style that I recommend. (Use the discount code “ARI2020” if you want to get 15% off your order, or click the link HERE and it will automatically give you 15% off your order.)
#2 Choice: TrueDark The next best option is the TrueDark glasses, which are also quality glasses that many people like. And if you have prescription reading glasses and need fitovers that block blue and green light, go for the TrueDark fitovers. You can purchase TrueDark glasses here. And then, for those who want to do a custom pair of glasses using a pair of glasses and lenses that you already have, you can send them off to Ra Optics for their tinting service. (Note: If you can’t afford to spend more than $10 or so, I suggest at least getting the standard construction worker style Uvex glasses. They will completely block out all blue light, but they won’t block green light. But if you can’t afford to spend $50 on the Blue/Green SleepSavior glasses or $80 on the TrueDark glasses, then at least get the Uvex blue blockers. It’s better than nothing, even if it’s not as good as true Blue/Green Blockers.)
Now go get yourself a pair of Blue/Green Blockers so you can sleep deep, improve your eye health, dramatically decrease your risk for many types of cancer and numerous other diseases, help improve your metabolism and hormonal health, improve your mood and neurotransmitter balance, increase your energy levels, and many more benefits.