Are you spending hours in front of your computer every day? Whether it’s for work, study, leisure, or a combination of these, you run the risk of developing digital eye strain and dry eye disease.

The digital screens of computers can alter blinking patterns, leading to more incomplete blinks. They also emit blue light. A blue light filter promises to significantly reduce the amount of blue light that reaches your eyes, at least according to marketers.

In today’s post, we look at the science behind blue light screen protectors or filters to understand how and if they work. We also investigate whether a blue light screen filter can prevent dry eye syndrome and digital eye strain.

But first, let’s take a closer look at blue light and its effects on the eye.

Is Blue Light Bad for Your Eyes?

You may think of blue light as artificial. It is true that digital screens, especially screens featuring LEDs – and that includes computers – emit blue light.

But did you know that blue light makes up about one-third of all visible light, with the sun being the biggest source?

Blue light increases alertness and supports brain function and memory. Blue light also plays a key role in regulating your body’s circadian rhythm, which determines your wake and sleep cycle.

The human eye does not naturally filter blue light. Most of the blue light you are exposed to reaches the retina, where photoreceptors turn light into electrical signals that the brain then converts into images.

woman sitting on bed in blue light unable to fall asleep with a few books and a lamp in the background

The problem is that over time, prolonged exposure to blue light may lead to dry eye disease, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and eye cancer.

Looking at your computer screen late into the night may suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the circadian rhythm and sleep.

More than affecting sleep, disruptions to the circadian rhythm can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.

The bottom line is that while natural blue light is unavoidable and necessary, artificial blue light later in the day can be harmful over time.

Tip: Check out our post Should You Be Worried About Blue Light Damaging Your Eyes? to find out more about the drawbacks and benefits of blue light.

What Is a Blue Light Screen Protector?

A blue light screen protector is a thin piece of tempered glass that you can apply directly over your computer screen. Blue light screen protectors are also available for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

Modern blue light screen protectors feature a thin, streamlined design. The best ones have multiple blue light blocking layers and a transparency of 95% or higher. They may have a mate, anti-glare finish, and be resistant to fingerprints, oil, and scratches.

woman's hands with black fingernails typing on a laptop with a blue light screen protector

In other words, more than blocking blue light, they could help protect the screen of your device. You may find this especially useful if your computer screen supports touch features.

With that in mind, two studies found that eyeglasses with blue-blocking filters had no significant effect on relieving eye strain. This included filters that blocked 100% of blue light.

The good news is that despite having some harmful effects on the eye, blue light doesn’t appear to cause digital eye strain according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

What Is a Blue Light Screen Filter?

The words “blue light screen protector” and “blue light screen filter” are often used interchangeably. With that in mind, in this post, we distinguish between:

  • screen protectors or panes of tempered glass that you apply over your computer screen
  • screen filters that are applications or built-in settings on your computer that change the color temperature of your display

Screen filters are software, making them readily available. Major operating systems like Windows and macOS have integrated blue light filters or night mode you can access through settings.

Once you enable one of these, they turn on automatically between certain intervals, usually after sunset and until sunrise though you can customize the time interval.

MacBook with night shift mode turned on lying on an outdoor terrace in the sunset

Other software screen filters such as f.lux on Windows are standalone applications. They may offer more customization options including different color temperatures.

They can even adjust the color temperature gradually throughout the day depending on your location, solar times, and circadian response.

Software screen filters reduce blue light by decreasing white colors and minimizing contrast. However, they don’t block blue light entirely.

Blue Light Screen Protector vs. Blue Light Screen Filter

A 2020 study found that the built-in Night Shift mode on the iPhone and iPad decreased blue light intensity more than a physical screen protector. Decreasing screen brightness combined with Night Shift mode led to even better results.

It’s important to note that the efficiency of a screen protector or how much blue light it can block may vary from product to product.

The bottom line is that software screen filters are a simple and convenient option to reduce blue light at night. Blue light screen protectors, meanwhile, may reduce blue light emissions from your computer without altering the color temperature of the display as much.

Since both screen filters and screen protectors reduce blue light to limit eye strain, you can use them together.

So, Should You Use a Blue Light Screen Protector or Filter?

Using a software blue light screen filter is simple and you have nothing to lose by enabling one. Your eyes will adapt to the color temperature change quickly.

The only downside to a blue screen filter is if you do web design or else work with digital color palettes and need to visualize specific colors that the filter may alter. Even so, you can turn off the filter when necessary.

closeup of man working on a laptop at a desk and smiling

Adding a screen protector costs money, even though most screen protectors tend to be affordable. It can be a good choice especially if you want to also protect your computer screen from scratches.

When shopping for a blue light screen protector, make sure to check how much blue light it actually filters. As we’ve seen, most screens won’t block all blue light.

In the end, you may start by turning on the blue light screen filter on your computer if you haven’t already and pay attention to how your eyes feel. Then you may add a screen protector if necessary.

Keeping Your Eyes Healthy and Happy

Some amount of blue light is unavoidable. More than that, it’s necessary. So, while reducing artificial blue light can be good for your eye health in the long run, there are a few other important things you can do.

Get an eye checkup every two years or more often. This will enable your eyecare professional to catch any vision problems early, including dry eye syndrome or digital eye strain.

Also important is to take frequent breaks while working on your computer or doing other close work with your eyes. Follow the simple 20-20-20 rule. Look away from your screen every 20 minutes at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Or if your office setup doesn’t allow it, simply close your eyes every 20 minutes for 20 seconds.

Applying a warm compress over your eyes once you get home is another good idea especially if you experience tired dry eyes. A warm compress can help unclog your oil glands and soothe your eyes.

But perhaps the most important thing you can do for your eyes is to make sure you provide them with enough nutrients through a healthy and balanced diet. To stay healthy and work at their best, your eyes need vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants including the macular pigments lutein and zeaxanthin.

A busy work life can make it difficult for you to take in all these nutrients. But eye health supplements like SightC and Blueberry Monk Fruit Gummies can help.

Made with superfoods like goji berries, turmeric, and blueberries, these supplements nourish your eyes. And since they are rich in antioxidants, they can protect your eyes from free radicals including the harmful effects of blue light.

Choose an Eye Health Bundle today to keep your eyes healthy and happy.

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