Is Blue Light Actually Bad for Your Eyes? Effects And Benefits - GoodRx (2023)

Key takeaways:

  • Blue light is emitted from both the sun and digital devices, such as computer and phone screens.

  • Exposure to this visible light has long been thought to cause eye strain. However, specialists are challenging that theory.

  • Still, overexposure to blue light can disrupt sleep. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to promote quality shut-eye.

Is Blue Light Actually Bad for Your Eyes? Effects And Benefits - GoodRx (1)

If you look at a computer screen for most of your workday, there’s a good chance that someone has brought up blue light to you. Maybe someone has suggested that you invest in a pair of blue-light blocking glasses. And that might have made you wonder: Is blue light actually bad for your eyes?

What is blue light?

“Blue light is high-energy, short-wavelength blue and violet light emitted from digital screens,” Ronald L. Benner, OD, who is the president of the American Optometric Association, told GoodRX Health.

“The largest source of blue light is sunlight, but it’s also found in most LED-based devices,” Benner added, referring to digital screens that use LED lights.

Benner explained that every color has its own unique energy and wavelength. These are some of the characteristics that make the sky look blue during the day and a sunset look pink, orange, and red in the evening.

Justin Sherman, OD, FAAO told GoodRx Health that blue light, which is characterized as visible light, is on the higher energy end of the visible light spectrum, adding that this quality makes it easily “diffracted, refracted, and diffused.”

Why is blue light thought to be bad for you?

Blue light has gotten a bad rap likely due to advertisements claiming that it’s capable of causing damage to retinal cells, which can lead to problems like age-related macular degeneration.

In addition to that, there have been concerns in the scientific community around children’s eye health and blue light. More specifically, a study suggested children’s eyes absorb more blue light than adults’ eyes, which may make children more likely to experience the potential side effects of blue light.

Claim: Blue light is bad for your eyes and can affect your sleep

Below, both Benner and Sherman — along with current research on the matter — debunk the idea that blue light wreaks havoc on eye health. But, the experts explain, blue light might affect how quickly you’re able to fall asleep.

What does the science say about blue light, your eyes, and sleep?

According to the research on blue light, one thing remains consistent: There seems to be a lack of evidence that suggests average exposure to blue light damages eyesight or threatens eye health in general.

According to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF), some evidence suggests blue light exposure is a risk factor for developing age-related macular degeneration and even cataracts. However, the organization has clearly stated that research on blue light emitted from electronic devices is “contradictory and inconclusive.”

And Benner said he agrees with this position. “Research categorically shows overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can increase the risk for serious sight-threatening conditions. But the verdict is out on blue light emitted from digital screens,” he said.

Blue light vs. UV light

Remember that sunlight emits far more blue light than your computer screen. In fact, indirect sunlight has about 25 times the flux (energy emitted by a light source) and a higher concentration of blue light than a phone screen does, according to Sherman. And direct sunlight is even more aggressive — with about “250 times the flux of LED screen emissions” and a significantly higher concentration of blue light.

UV light, the invisible light that comes from the sun and tanning beds, penetrates eye tissues much more easily than visible light, which includes blue light. In short, too much unprotected exposure from direct sunlight can lead to eye health issues, including eye sunburn, Benner said.

“It’s important to prevent overexposure to UV radiation by wearing UVA- and UVB-blocking sunglasses when in direct sunlight,” Benner said. “Patients increase their risk of developing cataracts, pterygium (surfer’s eye), or even some forms of cancer [otherwise].”

What do experts say about blue light?

Both Benner and Sherman agree that blue light is not harmful to your overall health.

“The perception that blue light is bad for our eyes likely comes from the association between blue light and digital screens,” Sherman said, adding that screen usage has a strong association with myopia, also known as nearsightedness. “But, as far as we understand how myopia develops, it has nothing to do with the exposure to blue light.”

While UV light poses more of a threat to your eyesight than blue light does, the latter could very well be a cause of disrupted sleep. Research has noted that blue light suppresses the release of melatonin in the body. Because melatonin is a hormone that can make you feel tired, you can see how this might not bode well for someone who is trying to catch some z’s.

As Benner noted, blue light stimulates the eyes and prepares the body to wake up after sleep. So it helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms, or internal body clock.

“As a result, cellphone, tablet, and personal computer use before bedtime can delay sleep onset, degrade sleep quality, and impair alertness the following day,” Benner said.

Sherman added that all visible light — regardless of the source — can suppress melatonin. However, blue light seems to have the strongest effect of them all.

So is blue-light exposure OK?

The blue light that comes from your computer screen or smart phone isn’t as harmful to your eyes as you may think. At least, that’s what the current research has led experts to believe. If anything, overuse of digital devices could cause you to have issues falling asleep at night.

“The best way to determine one’s individual eye health and vision-safety needs is to consult with a doctor of optometry (OD),” Benner said. “During an annual comprehensive eye exam, they can discuss ways to prevent blue light overexposure.”

How to prevent blue light from affecting your eyes, sleep, and overall health

Benner said there isn’t much evidence on how well blue-light blocking glasses prevent eye strain from using digital devices.

While wearing blue-light glasses can’t hurt, it also may not be necessary. But Sherman said that some of his clients love wearing their blue-light glasses.

“With or without blue-light glasses, practicing eye-friendly screen habits is a guaranteed way to reduce your eye strain and the effects of digital eye strain,” Benner said.

As Benner noted, the American Optometric Association (AOA) suggests following certain strategies to help reduce symptoms of eye strain. These include:

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen, take a 20-second break to look at something that’s 20 ft. away. By fixating on an object in the distance, you give your eyes a break from the high visual demands of viewing screens up close.

  • Maintain a comfortable distance from your device. The AOA suggests using the “zoom in” feature on your digital device to help bring small print and details closer to your eyes. “Ideally, the screen should be 15 to 20 degrees, or about 4 in. to 5 in., below eye level as measured from the center of the screen,” Benner said.

  • Reduce the glare on your device. You can adjust this in your device’s settings or by using a glare filter, which the AOA says can help decrease the amount of light that’s reflected from the screen. “Most phones have blue light-filtering features, but even certain apps have settings that can be adjusted,” Benner said.

With regard to improving sleep quality, Sherman suggested turning on the “night mode” filter on your phone or tablet, so that “you can dampen the wakening effects of screens and other blue light sources.” He also recommended putting your phone away 30 to 60 minutes before going to sleep to prevent melatonin suppression.

Perhaps the most effective way to protect your eyes from blue light, though, is to wear sunglasses when you’re outside during peak-sun hours.

​​”If you're concerned about blue light being harmful, you'll block more blue light by wearing sunglasses outdoors for 10 minutes than you will by wearing your blue-light blockers at the computer all day,” Sherman said.


American Macular Degeneration Foundation. (n.d.). Ultra-violet and blue light aggravate macular degeneration.

American Optometric Association. (n.d.). Computer vision syndrome.

View All References (8)


American Optometric Association. (n.d.). Eye health guidance for screen time.

Lockley, S. W., et al. (2003). High sensitivity of the human circadian melatonin rhythm to resetting by short wavelength light. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (2010). Visible light.

National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health. (n.d.). Blue light and your eyes.

National Center for Environmental Health. (2022). UV radiation.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2020). Ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Vimont, C. (2021). Should you be worried about blue light? American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Wahl, S., et al. (2019). The inner clock—Blue light sets the human rhythm. Journal of Biophotonics.

GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

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